This is not among the more popular tourist places in Jaipur. It is more of a pilgrim place, and a favourite among locals. Since we visited Jaipur as guests of a local family, they decided to give us a tour of the city... or rather; to places that they thought, we would enjoy seeing the most. First on their list was the temple of Galtaji. Honestly, I had no idea such a temple existed. In fact, I had never thought that I would visit temples while in Jaipur!! However, this temple turned out to be a surprise in more ways than one!
The Galtaji Temple is, accurately speaking, a complex filled with temples. That the temple complex is situated amidst the Aravalli ranges adds a touch of interest.
The entrance resembles that of a fort, and the road that leads us to the temple simply makes that feeling more dominant.
The temple complex appears to be more a palace complex than a temple, making the place even more interesting.
Ascetics are said to have flocked to the site since the early 1500s, but the present temple complex was built by Diwan Rao Kriparam, a courtier of Sawai Jai Singh II, in the 18th century.
There are two approaches to the temple - one is a path over the hills, which is for those who walk all the way. The second approach is by a road, which passes along the Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh - gardens laid out by Sawai Jai Singh II, for his Sisodia queen.
This road leads us closer to the temple, and we have to climb fewer steps to reach the top. Right at the top is a temple dedicated to the Sun God. At the foothills are temples dedicated to Lord Rama and Lord Krishna.
Each of these temples are no less than palaces, and the paintings make them appear all the more like the residences of royalty!
Walking up the first set of stairs, we come to a pool, with people happily frolicking in the water. On the next level is another pool. The springs which feed these pools are the raison d’être of this temple.
As the story goes, this place was once the ashram of the Sage Galav. He performed great penances at this holy site, and he is also credited with bringing the water of the holy rivers here. People flock here from all over to bathe in these holy waters, and from what we heard, every inch of this huge space is filled to bursting during Makar Sankranti, when the waters are believed to be the most potent.
The source of this holy water is believed to be a cow’s mouth (gaumukh), like at so many other places, and there is also a small shrine where the water actually gushes out from the spring.
At a little higher level is the main shrine, where the saint was said to have lived and meditated. There are no idols here, but simply saligramams or Shaligrams that he worshipped. Saligramams are holy stones found in the Gandaki river, which are believed to represent Lord Vishnu. (They are very interesting, and for reasons other than religious, but more about that in my next post).
Another set of steps leads us to the temple at the top of the hill – the temple dedicated to Surya, but it was too hot for us, so we decided to head back.
This place is apparently notorious for its monkeys. We were warned to leave all eatables, and in fact, all our things behind. In fact, I was even advised to leave my camera behind, because the monkeys would grab whatever they could. Needless to say, I did not heed the advice about the camera, which thankfully came to no harm! But the advice was certainly good, for the place abounded in monkeys! In fact, as I was checking up some details to write this post, I learnt through Wikipedia that these Rhesus Macaques were featured in National Geographic channel's Rebel Monkeys series!!!
If I had visited Jaipur as I had intended to, as a tourist, staying within the old city and visiting the forts and palaces that it is famous for, I probably would never have visited Galtaji. I can only thank whatever divine power it was that called me there, for it is a place I thoroughly enjoyed visiting!