Every city has its secrets and Jaipur is a royal treasure box of beautiful heritage. Despite being overrun by tourists, the capital city of Rajasthan in India manages to withhold some beautiful offbeat jewels from the prying eyes and they are the most impressive places in the entire city. If you scratch only the surface, then Jaipur seems no different from anywhere else in India, though its heritage secrets are some of the loveliest in India. The partially abandoned temples of Galtaji definitely falls into this category of the lesser known gems of Jaipur and upon experiencing its tranquility, you will understand why.
A jaw-dropping location of Galtaji
The beauty of the location of Galtaji surpasses the site and the ride from downtown Jaipur to the temples is simply jaw-dropping. Situated in the neighbouring town of Khania-Balaji, the complex of Galtaji temples is built into a narrow crevice in the jagged Aravalli Hills in Rajasthan. It is famous for a natural spring which begins from the spot and flows down, filling a series of kunds (water tanks) for the pilgrims to bathe. All around the craggy hills are covered by trees and flowering shrubs and the magnificent complex sits amidst them. There are many shrines within the complex and the Galtaji Temple is built out of delicate pink sandstone.
Frescoes, carvings, and holy spring
The walls of the temple are beautifully adorned with frescoes and intricate carvings cover the structure. Beautiful pavilions dot the complex and imagine sitting there, being surrounded by trees, flowering shrubs, and bird cries. The best views, however, are from the topmost water tank (kund) area. As a visitor or a pilgrim climbs up the crevasse, continuing past the highest water pool to a hilltop temple, the magnificent view of Jaipur and its fortifications spread out across the valley floor, unfurls before his eyes.
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The legends and history
It all started when a saint named Galav decided to live, practice meditation, and do his penance there. Pleased by his devotion, the Gods gifted his place of worship with copious water and for a semi-arid region like Jaipur, this is indeed a great blessing. After that, Galtaji was a retreat for Hindu jogis for a long time, when finally holy men belonging to Vaishnavite Ramamnandi sect drove them away and turned it into one of the most important centers of that faith. This was in the 16th century and over the decades the site gained the reputation as an important pilgrimage spot for the Hindus.
The courtier and the saint who created Galtaji
In the 18th century, Diwan Rao Kriparam, a courtier of Sawai Jai Singh II built the present Galtaji temple and keeping in mind the architectural tradition of the Pink City, had it constructed out of light reddish sandstone. He created a magnificent complex which featured a number of pavilions topped rounded roofs, carved pillars, and fresco decorated walls. The complex was set around the legendary natural spring whose waterfall create the two-tiered pools, the upper and lower pool, used for bathing by pilgrims. In my eyes, Galtaji is one of the most stunning examples of architecture blended into the surrounding natural landscape and a beautiful tribute to saint Galav, who did his penance there.
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Experience unbelievable solitude at Galtaji
I visited Galtaji twice and both the times, it was enveloped in a soul-soothing tranquility. Located on the outskirts of the chaotic, noisy, and dirty Pink City, it is like an oasis of greenery. Beautiful golden sandstone hills create a magical bowl and desert shrubs give them a green cover. Flowers bloom from the vibrant bougainvillea vines and a huge dust free blue sky smiles overhead. At Galtaji, the squawking of the parrots and harsh cries of the peacocks replace the annoying traffic din of the city and you can literally hear the flapping of the multitude of the pigeons’ wings. The whole place echoes a lot of monkey hootings and after stressful Jaipur sounds, these seem more soothing.
Galtaji is like an oasis of tranquility in the middle of Jaipur
Thankfully the most difficult noise to find at Galtaji (except during the festivals) is the sound of a human voice and it is because hardly anybody visits here apart from a handful of the locals. Tranquility and solitude are easy to find here and during both my visits I felt like Alice who has fallen down a rabbit hole. Hardly anybody could be seen at the entire temple complex and the monkeys running free all over the place gave it a ‘Jungle Book’ like feeling.
It is called the Monkey Temple for a reason
Galtaji is a monkey galore. The temple is home to large tribes of monkeys who live in these abandoned and partially restored temples. At any day, they are more in number than the humans and even have a fantastic National Geographic documentary called the “Monkey Thieves” dedicated to them. The ‘Monkey Thieves’ follows a large troop of Galtaji macaques all over the Pink City of Jaipur and document their existence in close quarters with human beings. In India, they are signified by the powerful god Hanuman, and thus the Galtaji monkeys live in relative luxury.
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The monkey business of Galtaji
The worshippers who come to visit the temple bring along with them fruits for the monkeys and the tourists are pestered to buy feed by local hawkers. Having been terrorized by one, I am not fond of these pesky creatures at all and during both my visits, had found it difficult to get comfortable at Galtaji. My daughter Noni and Tarek, however, had a great time with them and in return, the monkeys rolled, somersaulted, and even sat on their shoulders.
Stereotyped India is beautiful at Galtaji
Monkeys, snake charmers, bejeweled women in colourful saris, people bathing publicly, and abandoned palatial temples..Galtaji presents all these stereotypes of India in a most breathtaking way. The monkeys scampering all over the palatial semi abandoned temples, the hills echoing with peacock calls, pilgrims bathing merrily in the holy kunds, and snake charmer playing his pungi musical instrument for the tourists are all parts and parcel of Galtaji. Yet, rather than making it seem touristy, these enhance the time forgotten charm of Galtaji and create an aura of years long gone; an era before mobile phones, selfies, and the breakneck speed of social media.
Travel facts for Galtaji
How to reach there –
Now that you are in Jaipur, there are two ways by which visitors can reach Galtaji temple. The first one is the easiest, where you simply hire a car or a tuk-tuk to take you directly to the temple. It is located 10km east from central Jaipur and access to the Monkey Temple is through the Galta Road, which is a very photogenic route in itself. Be prepared to bargain hard with the driver for going to Galtaji, waiting for 1 hour, and drop you back to the city. The second option is to hike to GaltaJi from the western side of Jaipur and this route passes the sun temple. The short hike is of approximately 30minutes and starts from the end of Surajpol Bazar Road. Follows the path east through the large pink stone archway. This route provides stunning views of the temple and Jaipur while passing the sun temple.
Best time to visit –
The ideal time to visit the temple would be around dusk when the temple is bathed in golden light and monkeys play in the compound of the temple. You will also get a panoramic sunset view of Jaipur from the top of the hill. The months of February-March and the time of October-December are ideal for visiting Rajasthan. The temple is usually crowded on Makar Sakranti festival in January when throngs of pilgrim come over to take a dip in the holy waters of the tank.
Entry fee and timings –
The Galtaji temple of Jaipur remains open from 5 am to 9 pm for the visitors on all days of the week. There is no entrance fee to visit the temple but holy men may ask for a donation (Rs20-50) and visitors with cameras will be expected to give a Rs50-100 donation. Bags of nuts or bananas can be purchased (Rs10-20) but expect to be mobbed by the monkeys who will happily charge at you for food.
Nearby Tourist Attractions
You can also visit the Krishna Temple, Surya Temple, Balaji Temple and the Sita Ram Temple, situated very near to the Galtaji Temple. Another tourist attraction near this temple is the Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh, which is a magnificent palace and garden.
Pro Tips –
1. No shoes are allowed inside the temple so it is best to come here in a comfortable pair of slip-on that can be removed and re-worn easily.
2. When visiting the Galta temple avoid wearing clothes that are too revealing.
3. The temple has many monkeys, and they try to snatch eatables from visitors. Make sure you hide all food products and do not scare the monkeys with camera flashes.
4. The temple premises is a little dirty and watch out monkey poop.
5. The mobile network connection can be a little weak in this area.
6. Beware of the touts who tend to charge you an entry fee at the temple.
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