National Geographic : 1977 Jul
Rats by the thousands inhabit the temple of Hindu goddess Bhagwati Karniji in Deshnoke, Rajasthan, where two worshipers bow to the god dess's image in an inner sanctum (right). Rats at their feet dine on a bowlful of sweets, grain, and milk called laddu. Sculptured rats flank the goddess on a silver door (above) and adorn a marble archway at the temple entrance (left). A live rat peers from a hole in the sanctuary wall (below). "They were all around me," says photographer Stanfield. "While I was shooting pictures, the rats gnawed holes in my camera bag and even chewed the insulation from my strobe lights, shorting them out." Devotees explain that the rats, like all living creatures, are welcome. Some Indians criticize the cost of $3,500 a year to feed the rats, when the country is woefully short of food for people.