There are those among us who worship Krishna and Christ and even Satan. It is all a part of everyone’s faith. There is a temple of Mahatma Gandhi near Erode in Tamil Nadu. It was started by a freedom fighter to teach Gandhi’s thoughts to the modern generation who are forgetting them. Worship and offerings can be done there just like in other temples.
In some parts of India, you can find temples built in the name of movie stars and political leaders. There are people all over the world who worship not only divine powers, humans and human gods but also other living beings including animals. Although it may seem interesting to hear, even educated and developed countries are part of such strange things. Some animal lovers, businessmen who aim to generate more income through tourism, and beliefs passed down through generations like folklore are behind them.
The world famous Tiger Temple is located in Kanchanaburi in western Thailand. Although there is a gigantic image of Lord Buddha made of 80 kg gold, the main attraction here is the tigers of various ages. Tourists can ride with them, feed them and pose for photos. They rarely have a history of harming humans.
In a temple run by Buddhist monks, one of them is always with the tigers. They used to roam free and are now chained. They spend most of their time in the cage and are released mostly in the afternoon. Indo-Chinese tigers are the most common tigers here, but Bengal tigers and the recently discovered new species of Malayan tigers are also present.
The Tiger Temple is a two-hour drive from Bangkok city. Travel packages offered by various operators are also available. A maximum of 12 visitors are allowed during the morning puja for which a higher charge is levied. They have to pay $167.
Any number of people can participate in the mid-day puja. The rate is less. The ashram specifically stipulates that visitors to the temple should not wear dark colored or immodest clothes. An old Buddhist school is also near this forest temple. Established in 1994, there are now around 100 tigers in the temple.
Controversies also arose around the ashram after it came into the world’s attention. The major allegations that have come up are that the tiger zoo is being run without a license and that endangered tigers are being sold for organ trading. Tiger body parts are an integral part of some Chinese medicines. News about that also spread.
Although some animal protection groups suspected that the tigers were being drugged, the Animal Planet team that spent three days in the area in 2004 found nothing. Some say that animals that should roam free in the wild are tortured and caged. But the authorities say that they are breeding the endangered species and releasing it back into the wild. In any case, this tiger sanctuary is the main attraction for tourists coming to the country. It is estimated that around six hundred pilgrims visit the temple every day.
There are temples not only for tigers but also for rats, snakes and centipedes. Rat temple named after Karni Mata is located in Rajasthan, India. This shrine near Bikaner is also home to over 23,000 rats. The temple is believed to have been built in the 15th century. People come from different parts of the world to see and worship the holy rats known as Kabas,.
There are many stories about the origin of the temple of Karni Mata. The most famous of them is the legend related to the death of their adopted son Lakshman. Karni Mata, also known as Ridu Bhai, is said to have lived between 1300 and 1500.
Devastated by Lakshmana’s sudden death, they approached death god as per Hindu mythology, Yama to save his life. Although he initially refused, Lakshmana was allowed to live on the condition that all the other sons of Mother Karni would be turned into rats. Today, mostly black rats are found in the temple, but rare white species are also seen. Devotees believe that they are the children of Mother. Believers who consider it auspicious to see white rats make a lot of efforts here.
If any rat dies, the temple also has a ritual of offering a rat made of gold to replace it. Some consider it a blessing to eat food touched by rats.
The story of Se Koon Temple in Malaysia is even stranger. This Chinese shrine on top of the hill is known as the Temple of centipedes. Hundreds of centipedes roam freely around the temple premises. It is lucky to see them. It’s not over, even if they bite you, more luck will come on your way. There are many stories that validate it from the side of the believers.
A Chinese journalist who visited the area in 1998 saw and photographed a new species. The very next day he heard the news that he had won first place in a famous photography competition. There are more similar stories. After being bitten by a centipede, some people have won the lottery and their business has flourished.
One has to climb 176 steps to reach this temple of centipedes. Located in Seremban, this temple is believed to have been built in the 19th century by a Thai monk named Son San Koon.
The Temple of Snakes is located three kilometers away from Penang Airport in Malaysia itself. There are various types of viper snakes here. Authorities say that because of a special kind of smoke that fills the entire temple, they are not at all aggressive, but holding and photographing the snakes is not encouraged here.
The temple was built in the 19th century in memory of a Buddhist ascetic and it is said that after his death the snakes arrived on their own. He was also a good healer and often sheltered snakes from nearby forest areas in his ashram. Devotees see these reptiles as his disciples. An exhibition of different species of snakes has also been organized in connection with the temple. Here, the needy can take photos with cobras, pythons and other species by paying a fee.