In the quiet town of Khaniya-Balaji in Rajasthan, located about 10 km (6.2 miles) outside of Jaipur, there is an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site known as Galta Ji. This treasured area sits right between the Aravalli Hills, and you will discover many temples along with one of the holiest of fresh water springs. Pure water flows from the cow-shaped rock (Gaumukh) into the ponds which are known as “kund” in Hindi, and it is said that they will never run dry.
Submerge yourself into the holy water
Wedged beautifully between the mountains, it is believed that bathing in these waters will remove your sins, purifying your soul. Many travelers from all over the world come to visit these murky waters, and you will often find this area to be very crowded. There are two separate bathing areas, one specifically for men that is closer to the Gaumukh, and another pool just down the stairs from this one that is unisex, but you will mainly see women taking a dip here.
There is an old legend that tells of a time before these temples and shrines were built, that Saint Galav came to spend the majority of his life here. He practised Tapasya, a celibate lifestyle that usually consists of deep meditation and the accepting of penances for spiritual awareness. Many say that it was Saint Galav’s dedication that brought the holy water to this site from the Ganges River. During the full moon of the 8th lunar month on the Hindu calendar, which is known as Kartik, celebrated in November, the Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are said to visit these holy grounds. This is also the night when millions of dedicated Hindu worshippers come to pray and bathe themselves in these holiest of waters.
Take a look inside the temples
If you continue along the walking path, up the hill, you will stumble upon the main temple, dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The architecture of this temple resembles that of a royal palace, and was built entirely from pink sandstone. There are depictions of Lord Krishna etched into the temple walls, showing scenes from the royal life that took place here so long ago. Aside from this temple, there are also those dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma as well. There are benches nearby to sit and rest from your walk, and it is nice to soak in the vivid scenery that encircles this entire area.
The temple dedicated to Lord Brahma is the only one of its kind in Jaipur, and was built during the 14th century. Even the stairs leading up to this grand structure are made with marble, and interestingly enough, the floor is decorated with many silver coins. The temple of Lord Vishnu was built here in the late half of the 9th century, and has seen a great deal of damage since. However, the remains are still extraordinary. Located at the entrances of these temples, you are most likely to be welcomed by a man who will show you around, explaining the history, while allowing you to take pictures of the inside. Once you reach the shrine located within, he will expect a small fee or offering to the gods, as most temples in India do. Keep in mind this does not have to be a large amount, as 10 INR to 50 INR (0.15 USD to 0.73 USD) will do, unless of course, you are feeling quite generous.
Stop to feed the rhesus monkeys
Often, you will hear the main temple of Galta Ji being referred to as the Monkey Temple because of the many rhesus monkeys that populate the area. There is no need to worry as the monkeys are very friendly and tend to keep to themselves, unless provoked or tempted with a bag of peanuts. There are vendors that will sell you a bag of peanuts or a couple of bananas for no more than 1 USD, however, I recommend to keep the package of food safely hidden from the monkeys because they will take it from you. The only time I saw a group of monkeys being angered or acting fearful was when a young tourist wearing a red shirt walked by very close to them. I did some research and actually found that the “red effect” can make people seem more frightening, triggering anger, and also sparking attraction from female monkeys. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to the Monkey Temple, do refrain from wearing the color red, especially if you don’t desire unwanted attention from the many monkeys you will encounter.
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Before leaving, visit the Sun Temple and enjoy a cup of chai
Once you’ve reached the very top of this mountain, about a 30-minute walk away from Galta Kund (the holy waters), you will find a smaller temple dedicated to the Sun God. There is a family who lives here, and the woman will gladly tell you of the temple’s history. During my trip, during the monsoon season (August – November) while visiting this temple, I could see off into the distance the rain heading towards us, washing over each neighborhood like a white curtain. The family kindly allowed me to stay and sit with them, even though our communication with each other was very poor. The monkeys began jumping in the puddles that formed onto the lower part of the ceiling, splashing each other playfully, and when the rain had stopped, I gathered my things, making my way back down the mountain. If you originally had a taxi drop you off, take a left when you walk out of the Sun Temple to head back to the main road, which is much shorter than hiking back to the pools. You will find a small shop where the owner will welcome you to sit and enjoy a warm cup of chai while you wait for your ride, feeling cleansed from your trip here at Galta Ji.
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