India is a land of temples, and more importantly, it is a land of unique and fascinating temples. From temples that are dedicated to movie stars, to temple that is dedicated to rats, you will find something different in India. I too wished to visit one such temple and was fervently looking for one.
Suddenly I came across a temple in Jaipur called the Monkey Temple or the Galtaji Temple. At first, I assumed that by monkey it means that the temple was dedicated to the Great Lord Hanuman, yet upon further reading, I realised that isn’t the truth.
So, I packed my bag and left the very next day to traverse and explore the Monkey Temple in Jaipur.
Many historians believe that several Yogis and Sadhus used to live here in the 16th Century. During this time a saint named Krishnadas Payo Hari came here and cleared the area of these Yogis and babas, using his magical powers.
Some people said that Krishnadas Payo Hari was a Payobhaksha, that is, someone who lived on a milk only diet.
Since then this place became an important region for Ramanandi Hindus and Naga Sadhus.
Often you will hear that the Galtaji temples are also referred to as the Uttar Totadri. This is because the centre of Ramananda school of Hinduism is located in Tamil Nadu, which is also called Totadri Math.
Other stories say that, on a full moon day in the Hindu month of Kartik, the holy trinity of Hinduism, that is Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, come and visits Galtaji.
Another belief suggests that the famous Char Dham Yatra is not complete until one takes a holy dip in the Galta Kund.
After landing in Jaipur, I had to hire an auto-rickshaw to reach the Galtaji temple. To reach the Monkey Temple I had to come to a place called Galtaji. Galtaji is a narrow valley located in the eastern hills of Jaipur. It is also is known for small rivulets or ponds and the Galta Temples.
During ancient times, this route was a popular pilgrimage place. Yet, over time the place lost its importance and became more and more isolated.
As my rickshaw was ricketing through the rustic streets of Jaipur, my driver started telling me the legend behind this place.
Locals believe that Galta Ji was named after a famous Rishi called Rishi Galav. Rishi Galav did his penance at this very site for 60,000 years. The Gods were pleased by his devotion and thus decided to bless the area with an eternal source of holy water. Many people also believe that this water is the sacred water of Ganges.
Till today the waterfalls, and it is now collected in a tank. This tank acts more like a little pond, wherein you bathe, or you can just take a dip into the water to cleanse your sins.
After some time I reached the narrow lanes of Galtaji Temple. From here, I had to walk. As I was walking I realised that I was the only one who looked like a tourist, everyone else seemed like a local. I couldn’t find anybody with a camera around his or her neck, looking here and there curiously like me. My entire path was marked by monkeys, who all seemed to mind their own business. Slowly slowly I started to understand why this temple is also called the Monkey Temple.
This place is also extremely picturesque, and you will find green hills on three sides.
There are several ponds in Galta Ji, out of which the holiest one os Galta Kund. Legends say that this pond will never run out of the water and no matter how hot it gets it will never get dry.
Some ponds are extremely deep, one of them is as deep as several elephants stacked on top of each other. These ponds get their water from a spring that falls from the mouth of a sculpted cow. It is quite a mesmerising sight, to see a sculpted cow spewing out water.
As I was walking around admiring these ponds, I also found few pilgrims taking a refreshing bath in the waters.
The beauty of these Galta Temples rests not only in the architecture of these temples but on the whole setting. These crumbling yet still magnificent temples stand tall, as the Galta Kund provides serenity, and oddly, even the monkeys seem to fit with the aesthetics and add another allure to it.
The temples have stunning frescoes and paintings, all of which depict Indian mythology and the Hindu religion. Even the walls and ceilings of these temples are adorned with paintings and murals. The architecture is reminiscent of the kind of monuments you will find in Jaipur. It is a built-in brilliant Jaipur architecture. I found canopies, lattices, and windows with intricate designs- all of which are iconic symbols of the Jaipur style of architecture.
There are a total of three temples, out of which two have been built in the haveli style- Shri Gyan Gopal Ji temple & Shri Sitaram Ji temple.
Shri Sitaram Ji temple is devoted to Lord Rama, whereas Shri Gyan Gopal Ji temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Shri Gyan Gopal Ji temple also has a school for disciples and students. There is also a small Hanuman Temple built right at the entrance, and I couldn’t help but wonder what do these monkeys offer their prayers to him!
As I was walking from the Galta Gate to the Shri Sitaram Temple, I found that the entire path was dotted with small shrines- some dedicated to the Sun, and some dedicated to Lord Krishna. Along with these temples, the monkeys also became my constant company, as some even followed me around.
When you come to the Monkey Temple, it is almost impossible to avoid these animals. The most common species of monkeys that I found here were Rhesus Macaque.
Few locals told me that in the past, Gray Langurs also used to come to Galtaji temple, however, they were driven out by the red-faced Rhesus Macaque. The monkeys are pretty harmless until someone provokes them. Many devotees also feed these monkeys some food or even bananas. But, if you wish to come here as a tourist then keep your food items packed in a bad. Monkeys will not be able to distinguish between a devotee and a tourist, and many can try to snatch your food away.
While it is quite a thrilling sight to find hordes and hordes of monkeys everywhere, some jumping into pools, and other busy in their daily life. You must stay safe.
You can try and shake hands with a monkey or even take a photograph, which I am also guilty of doing. But, please note that this isn’t always safe. Even though it can make for a quirky photograph, it is not uncommon for a monkey to bite! These monkeys are not trained so make sure you stay safe and avoid clicking pictures or even getting too close to the monkeys.
During my journey, a lot of guides and locals also suggested that as a tourist I should also feed them peanuts and bananas to acquire good karma. However, it is best to avoid this, since monkeys tend to get aggressive when they see food.
This lovely valley is located in the eastern hills beyond the famous Sun Temple. It is situated on the outskirts of Jaipur. Many people choose to call this place the Galta Hills, while others refer to it as the Jaipur Monkey Valley.
There are two routes that you can undertake to reach the Galtaji Temple. One path is by a rough and hilly terrain which starts from the Galta Gate. The other route is called Ghat ki Guni. This route is extremely picturesque and will take you through dense yet serene forests.
After finishing my tour, I decided to join some of the poolside monkeys, and sit beside the pool for some time. It is pretty entertaining to watch these monkeys play around and splash into the water. Yet, apart from the constant squealing of monkeys, there is no other sound. There are no crowds, no chants, it is just so peaceful.
It is like I was stranded in the middle of nowhere, and chanced upon some grand temples. The temples have now faded, yet the faded facade adds a different kind of beauty.
Many tourists tend to miss this, as it is located in the middle of nowhere. However, this is one such place that must not be missed. Come here for a history lesson, or come here to stare at a time long gone by, or come here for the frolicking monkeys- but do come here.
So after fathering my thoughts, I decided to head back home and bid The Monkey Temple farewell.