September 21, 2013

Rajasthan - Galtaji Ka Mandir or Monkey Temple

(This article was published in The Hindu dated 21-September-2013)

“I want nothing new, if I can have but a tithe of the old secured to me. I will spurn all wealth beside. Think of the consummate folly of attempting to go away from here! When the constant endeavor should be to get nearer and nearer here!” noted Henry David Thoreau in his journal.

Located around 10-20km away from Jaipur, towards the east, along the Jaipur-Agra Highway, it is one of the most beautiful and uncharted locations in Jaipur’s landscape. Earlier in the week, when we asked about the Monkey Temple, we were directed to a lonely small temple at the top of a hillock. Despite the wonderful scenery here, there were just not adequate monkeys for it to be given the title of ‘Monkey Temple’. We searched and searched and finally an auto-rickshaw guy decided to help us and we had to literally ask for directions along the highway to discover this temple. When approaching via road, one visits the Sisodia Rani ka Bagh(gardens laid out by Sawai Jai Singh II) in what seems to be like the gatekeeper to the temple. A few hundred meters of climb along the road, and a beautiful yellow gate lay in wait to welcome us in.





As one enters the temple complex, a huge courtyard with domed terraces on either sides welcomes you. Built using pink sandstone, the temple walls and ceilings have beautiful paintings that resemble a palace. The beautifully carved pillars and the colored walls take one to a different realm altogether.  The walls are laden with frescoes and murals, with many of them losing their charisma with the travails of time and begging for restoration. The temple pavilions and holy kunds make the entire complex look more like an ornate fort or a haveli than a temple.

Along with the majestic architecture of the structures surrounding you, you cannot miss the playful monkeys all around you. The highlights of this temple campus, except for the palatial mansions, are the Monkeys. Close to around 5000 monkeys reside in this campus and entertain the pilgrims and tourists as they roll and play in the courtyards, gardens, pools and by the side of the mountains. The hordes of rhesus macaques and Hanuman langurs have been featured in National Geographic channel's 'Rebel Monkeys' and 'Monkey Theives'. One can spend a few hours just looking at them. Though most of these monkeys are harmless, it is better to avoid carrying food items openly and tempt them



A flight of stairs takes one to the main temple that is constructed in multiple levels. The temple looks like it is sitting between the mountains and is crunched for space. The temple is supposed to have been constructed in the 18th century by Sawai Jai Singh II’s courtier Kriparam Diwan Rao. As Sage Galava is supposed to have performed penance here, the temple took the appellation of ‘Galta’. The holiest of the 7 tanks, that store water, here is also called Galta Kund. A temple of Ramgopal is present here and is it believed that Lord Ram gave darshan to Goswami Tulsidas here.

There is a face of a cow on the wall and water keeps pouring out of it, and hence like many other spring sites, this is called as Gaumukh(Cow's mouth). And hence the water in this kund is believed to be the manifestation of Ganges itself. Water from the natural springs accumulates in the kunds at multiple levels inside the complex. The green color of the water in the kund lends a beautiful charm to the hills that surround it on one side.  A dip in the kund on the holy day of Makar Sankranti(mid January, during Pongal) is said to rinse out the sins. This temple is of immense importance to the Hindus and is an important pilgrimage site. The temple dedicated to the Sun(Surya) is supposed to be second only to the one at Konark. There is a small diya inside the Hanuman temple that supposedly is burning continuously for more than 400 years now.



The entire geography of the site is in such a way that it lends its own unique charm to even the mountains that cast a shadow on the cascaded and rounded rooftops. There is a sense of sereneness in this place that is not present in many temples and the whole campus exudes tranquility. We visited this place again the very next day to soak in more of the scenery and enjoy the calmness surrounded by the rugged landscape of the Aravalli mountains.


Getting There: Galtaji-ka-Mandir is a 10km ride from Jaipur. Take the Jaipur-Agra highway and ask for Khaniya-Balaji.

Staying/Eating: There are no options to stay or eat in or near the Galtaji ka Mandir. Prefer staying in Jaipur and visit the temple by car or auto-rickshaw. Carry some snacks to eat as the place is a perfect spot for picnic, but be careful of the monkeys.

Tip: Prefer leaving Jaipur around 3-4pm so that you can spend the evening in the temple campus.

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