Meditation, Purification, and…. Monkeys! The holy pilgrimage site of Galta Ji.

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Located in the town of Khaniya-Balaji in Rajasthan there is an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site known as Galta Ji. It’s about 10 km outside of Jaipur, planted right in between the Aravalli Hills that surround the entire area, you will find many amazing temples and one of the holiest fresh water springs. The pure water that flows from the cow shaped rock (Gaumukh) into the ponds, also known as “kund” in Hindi, is said to never run dry.

This holy shrine is gracefully wedged between the mountains, and it is believed bathing in these waters will remove your sins and purify your soul. I was lucky to be here at a time when it was not overly crowded by the heaps of people who often come to take a dip in the calm waters here at Galta Kund. And I absolutely could not pass up the opportunity to have my soul purified!

So as I stepped into the green, murky water I took a deep breath and tried to imagine all the negativity in my life being carried away by the wind. I sat here for a while in the pool, thinking about how peaceful it was being surrounded by nature, observing the architecture of this lovely shrine, and wishing I could freeze this moment in time. Then a monkey came and snatched a bag of peanuts from the group of girls who had just arrived, stirring me from my day dream and signaling it was time for me to move on.

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An old legend goes that before these temples and shrines had been built, Saint Galav came and spent the majority of his life here. This is where he practiced Tapasya, a celibate lifestyle usually consisting of meditation and accepting penances for spiritual awareness. They say that it was Saint Galav’s dedication that brought the holy water here from the Ganges River. During the full moon of the 8th lunar month on the Hindu calendar, known as Kartik and celebrated in November, is when the Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva visit these holy grounds. This is the night when millions of dedicated Hindu worshipers come to pray and bathe in these holiest of waters.

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The main temple, dedicated to Lord Hanuman, was built from pink sandstone and is extremely large. The architecture of this Temple resembles that of a royal palace. Etched into the Temple you will find depictions of Lord Krishna and scenes from the royal life that took place here long ago. There are others dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma as well, and you will enjoy the kind energies that surround this holy place. Prepare to be captivated by the vivid scenery that circles the entire area, it’s nice to sit for a while on one of the nearby benches enjoying the view.

You will often hear the main temple of Galta Ji referred to as the Monkey Temple because of the many rhesus monkeys that populate the area. Don’t worry, the monkeys here are very friendly and they tend to keep to themselves. There are vendors that sell bags of peanuts or bananas to those making the journey up through the mountains, but I recommend keeping the package of food safely hidden from the monkeys because they will take it from you.

I was even approached by one of them, and as he nearly climbed my leg, searching and sniffing my purse (yes there was a bag of peanuts inside), I remained calm and just turned slowly away from him and he let go, continuing on his way. The only time I saw a group of monkeys being angered or acting fearful was when a young tourist wearing a red shirt was walking by them. I did a little research and found that the “red effect” not only makes people seem more frightening or angry, but it can also spark attraction from female monkeys.

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The Brahma temple is the only one of its kind in Jaipur and was built in the 14th century. The steps leading to this grand structure are made from marble as well as the floor that is also decorated with silver coins. At the entrances you’ll most likely be welcomed by a man who will show you around, explaining the history, and allowing you to take pictures of the inside. He will expect a small fee or “offering” to the Gods as do most temples in India, and it does not have to be a large amount– Rs. 10 to rs. 50 will do; unless you are feeling quite generous.

The temple of Vishnu was built here in the late half of the 9th century but has seen a great deal of damage with the passing of time. However, many people from all over the world, since the early 1500’s, still venture to this extraordinary pilgrimage site for worship and the curative powers of the Galta Kund.

Continuing further up the hill on the stone path you will discover another temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. This temple, located up a steep trail, is often missed by many tourists. There were several people at the top of the hill chanting mantras and praying. I don’t really recommend interrupting their circle as it seemed like a place where tourists really weren’t welcome, but you are able to walk to the side of the cliff and take some wonderful photos of the city below!

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Once you reach the very top of this mountain, about a 30-minute walk from Galta Kund, you will find a smaller Temple dedicated to the Sun God. The woman who lives here will kindly tell you about the Temple’s history, built somewhere in the 18th century. As I looked off into the distance, I could see the rain beginning to head towards us, washing over each neighborhood like an angelic white curtain.

The sound of the drops became like a musical chime and I sat on the cool Temple floor with my eyes closed, listening to nature’s white noise. When the rain slowed down, monkeys made their way over to the small pools that had formed and begun splashing each other playfully. I gathered my things and began my climb back down the mountain, remembering the bag of peanuts I still had in my purse. I decided to give it to a group of monkeys who were playing on the stone path before I left. Once I reached the bottom, on the opposite side from the entrance at Galta Kund, there is a small shop where the owner welcomes tourists. I had a delightfully warm cup of chai while I chatted with the locals, waiting for my taxi to arrive, and feeling cleansed from my trip here at Galta Ji.

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