Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Monkeying Around at the Monkey Temple of Jaipur

You drive through a slum neighborhood on the back of a tuk tuk (an auto rickshaw) passing on the way cows and goats roaming the streets looking for handouts. You pull up to a large beautiful temple where an old man starts jabbering away at you in Hindi way too fast to understand, but then thrusts a bag of peanuts and grains in your hand and holds his hand out for payment. You scrounge around in your pocket for a few rupees to give him and then to another man standing at the gate who gesticulates at your camera and then at his palm for money and points to a decaying sign behind him saying photography fee. Then you walk through an abandoned old temple and start up a walkway wondering if this whole experience will be worth it. Then out of nowhere a baby monkey comes scurrying up to you grabs a peanut and runs off. As you continue to walk up the stairs you reach a plateau and suddenly you see hundreds of monkeys running around the temple, scurrying up the rocks, and swinging from the archways. You know it is worth it- you are at the Monkey Temple.

For anyone who has ever watched Rebel Monkeys on National Geographic you are very familiar with the Galta Temple, better known as the Monkey Temple. The temple is dedicated to the God of Apes Hanuman and although it was once considered a great pilgrimage site with three pools one for men, one for women, and one for the holy monkeys, the monkeys have taken over the entire temple for themselves. Because the monkey is considered holy locals and tourists alike visit and bring offerings to the hungry monkeys. At the top of the temple is an alter where you can pray to the monkey god and receive a blessing. They are amazing to watch and it feels like a scene straight out of a Rudyard Kipling novel, but for anyone who has never seen the show be forewarned- these monkeys are Rhesus Macaque’s and they are vicious so be careful when your feeding them to just give them a peanut and not your pinky finger!
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