Next stop after a perfect day at the Taj, was a visit to the Monkey Temple just outside of Jaipur. After all, who couldn’t help but full in love with the stars of the National Geographic television series Monkey Thieves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic9fYB_WYg0
We arrived at the temple after a long journey from Agra, stopping at the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri on the way, only to be mercilessly hounded by relentless touts. One, selling necklaces, wouldn’t give up, sticking his hand through the window of the bus, and persisting until the bus began to pull out.
We were hot and tired, but hey, after battling the touts, what could a few hundred Rhesus Macaques throw at us that we couldn’t handle? The monkeys shared the ruins of the Temple Galtaji with holy priests and natural springs, the water collected in seven tanks. Thousands of Hindus make the pilgrimage every year to bathe in the water, while the monkeys are attracting more and more tourists.
Natural springs, stunning architecture and monkeys, a perfect way to end our day.
We bought some peanuts and were escorted to the gates by a couple of pushy cows, who only stopped short of asking for money.
But sure enough, that came inside the gate when we were asked for a camera fee.
I looked around. Okay, we’re here… you can come out now, monkeys.
But none appeared, except for one very tired looking looking fella to our right who, clearly as the only representative of his tribe, had been so stuffed full of peanuts he couldn’t be bothered to ask for more. In front of us surrounding the rubbish-strewn courtyard was an array of rundown buildings, a couple of dogs and a group of men, one of whom told us to take of our shoes and follow.
Aaaaah, I thought, he’s taking us to the monkeys.
Nup. This Sadhu, holy man, took us instead into a closet-sized dimly-lit temple where he beckoned us to sit down. The teen grabbed my hand practically sitting on top of me she was so freaked out.
The Sadhu daubed our foreheads with vermilion and pointing to the pictures of his God started an animated sermon in English speaking so fast we didn’t understand a word. But it was when he pulled out a cluster of peacock feathers and started thwacking the teen on the head with them that I began to get the giggles.
I think you’re being blessed,” I whispered.
“I don’t like it” she hissed while trying to remain polite.
“Just go with the flow… or the feather,” I snorted trying to stifle my mirth.
After he worked me over with the peacock feathers, more incoherent rambling was spewed forth as he proceeded to tie a piece of string around our wrists. Then he snatched our camera and took our photo.
A long silence followed. Until I realised he was staring pointedly at a dish containing money. I dropped 50 rupees in. He asked for more, but as far as I was concerned we’d been hijacked, and no more money was warranted. I refused and there was no misunderstanding of the grumblings in Hindu aimed at our backs as we squeezed out of his tiny alcove and into the daylight. Had the distinct impression our blessings had been revoked and replaced by some ancient curse.
We put on our shoes and returned to the courtyard to climb some stairs and pass some stagnant filthy pools we could only assume were the natural springs.
Still no monkeys.
We passed people sleeping….
And a bra in a branch….
But no monkeys.
We looked ahead and up a hill where a pink building lay. So that was the Temple of Galtaji.
“We’re not going up there mum.”
I was about to agree, but then I saw it through the zoom lens of my camera. A lone monkey sitting on the wall. Way up there.
Yep, the teen actually wailed.
Oh yes. We were going up. I was damned if I was going to leave without seeing those wretched monkeys. I’d bought peanuts after all.
So up we went, the teen moaning with every step, until I pointed out that things could be worse and she could be walking up the hill with a suitcase on her head.
And as we neared the crown of the hill, they started to appear. Out came my monkeys.
They weren’t aggressive, rather gentle in fact, waiting politely to receive a nut or tugging gently on our shirts. A couple jumped on Micky and it was hard to ignore the plaintive cries of the babies who were clearly adept at begging.
But they were worth every rotten step.
We spent nearly an hour with them among the stunning cliff tops overlooking the city of Jaipur. And then we walked back down with grins from ear to ear, ignoring the rubbish, the stagnant pools and the beggars. We’d seen our monkeys, we’d been truly blessed.