Looking for an elusive Monkey Temple, S. Venkatraman stumbles upon a beautiful surprise just outside Jaipur

Around 20 km from Jaipur, along the Jaipur-Agra Highway, we discover one of the most beautiful and uncharted locations on Jaipur’s landscape. We chance upon it when we are asked to look for the Monkey Temple. At first, we are directed to a small, lonely temple at the top of a hillock. However, the temple we find does not have enough monkeys to qualify for the title.

We continue looking for this elusive temple until an auto-rickshaw driver finally gives us directions further along the highway, a road. that takes us to Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh, a set of gardens laid out by Sawai Jai Singh II. This appears to be the gateway to, at last, the Monkey Temple. A climb of a few hundred meters along the road, and a beautiful yellow gate welcomes us. As we walk into the temple complex, a huge courtyard with domed terraces on either side greets us. The pink sandstone structures with beautiful paintings on the temple walls and ceilings resemble a palace. The carved pillars and the coloured walls transport us to a different realm. The walls are laden with frescoes and murals that have lost their sheen to time and are begging for restoration. The temple pavilions and holy kunds (tanks) add to the haveli-like feel of the place. And in the middle of all these striking structures, what you really can’t miss are the hundreds of playful monkeys all around. Apparently, there are close to 5,000 monkeys that stay in the temple campus and entertain pilgrims and tourists, rolling and playing about in the courtyards, gardens and pools. You can easily spend a few hours just watching them. These rhesus macaques and Hanuman langurs have been featured in National Geographic Channel’s Rebel Monkeys and Monkey Thieves. A flight of stairs takes you to the main temple constructed on multiple levels. The temple looks as if it’s sitting crunched up between the mountains, fighting for space.. The temple is said to have been constructed in the 18th century by Sawai Jai Singh II’s courtier Kriparam Diwan Rao. Since Sage Galava is believed to have performed penance here, the temple is referred to as Galtaji Ka Mandir. The holiest of the seven tanks that store water here is called the Galta Kund. There is also a Ram temple here. It is believed that Ram made an appearance in front of Tulsidas, the famous poet, at this spot.

Water from natural springs accumulates in the many kunds found at multiple levels inside the complex. The green colour of the water in these kunds lends a beautiful charm to the place. A dip in the kund on the holy day of Makara Sankranti (during Pongal) is believed to wash your sins away.The temple dedicated to the Sun (Surya) here is supposed to be second only to the famous one at Konark. There is a small lamp inside the Hanuman temple that legend says has been burning continuously for more than 400 years now.

The geography of the site is perfect. The mountains cast a shadow on the cascade of rounded rooftops that nestle in the valley. Amid the rugged landscape of the Aravalli range, this is a perfect place to experience serenity.