Jaipur: Monkey Temple, Fort and Royal Crematorium

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There is much to see in Jaipur. After visiting the Amber Fort and the Jantar Mantar yesterday, today we are going to take in a famous “Monkey Temple” as well as the Jaigarh Fort and the Gatore Ki Chhatriya, the Maharajas’ royal crematorium site.

As usual, when we are travelling and seeing new places, we do not do enough research before we go, and often find places that we would like a lot, if only we really knew about them. On our way to the Monkey Temple, a few kilometers east of Jaipur, was such a place. We saw it to the side of the road while driving. We had the driver stop so we could look and take a few photos, but we didn’t enter, as our guide wanted to keep us on schedule.

Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh

This is the entrance to the Royal Garden, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II for his second queen, a princess from Udaipur, Sisodia. Behind it, I read on the Internet, is a lush garden adorned by wall paintings of the Radha-Krishna love story, and is a symbol of the Maharaja’s love. Alas, we didn’t get to see the actual garden.

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The architecture is typical of Rajasthan, combining Hindu elements with Muslim ones, adopted from the ruling Mughals.

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One of these Muslim influences is the wall painting, I have read. I believe that this is not a Hindu tradition. 

There are many stories shown one the outer walls. There are scenes of gods. Below is a reclining Vishnu, and, I think, Brahma with his four heads.

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This looks like Siva, with the Ganges pouring from his head.

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There are heroic scenes of the men (probably all of Maharaja Jai Singh II). This looks like a tiger hunt.

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Romantic paintings adorn the walls, too. Here is a common Rajasthani image, where the cultured Maharaja (his culture indicated by the flower he holds and smells), meeting with, probably, his second wife, Sisodia.

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The Maharaja and Maharani hold each other’s hands in the middle of a ring of women. Are they dancing, like a Bollywood movie?

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At the top of the roof, in the corners, are these chhatris (dome-shaped pavilions used to depict pride and honor in Rajput architecture). They are typical of Rajasthani/Rajput architecture.

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Across the street is another building. I am not sure if it is part of the Queen’s Garden or not. It is old, maybe from the same era.

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This building demonstrates two features of Mughal-style architecture, adopted in Rajasthan. On the top is a jharoka, an overhanging enclosed balcony. On each side are jalies, perforated stone or lattice screens. It seems like it was a women’s area, judging from the jalies at the top of the building, for royal women to look out at what was going on, like the procession of the Maharaja to the garden, but not be seen.

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The entry doorway has an elaborate design painted at its top, I think surely of Muslim origin.

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We did not go up these stairs. We did not investigate the garden. I regret this now.

Galtaji

After a bit more driving through the hills we arrived at the Monkey Temple.

Galtaji is an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site, about 10 km away from Jaipur. The site consists of several temples and sacred kunds (water tanks) in which pilgrims bathe. It is believed that a saint named Galav lived here, I think around 1500 CE, practiced meditation, and did penance for 100 years.

Here is a sign at the entrance.

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Walking into the Galtaji site.

One thing about this place, it is not on most tourists’ lists of places to see. So it is not crowded here. After the Amber fort and Jantar Mantar, this is great!

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To our left is an old abandoned building.

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The entrance gate is ahead.

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Through the gate we see inside to more fantastic Rajasthani buildings.

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There are rooms to both sides of the entrance. People put their own gods here. I think these are Krishna forms. The flute-holding hands are a clear indicator. Maybe that is Radha in the center?

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This room is full of people’s gods and lingams.

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This is one of the main buildings here, the Ramgopalji temple on the right, built of red sandstone by Diwan Rao Kriparam, an attendant to Sawai Jai Singh II, in the 18th Century.

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Upstairs are jalies. In the center, a man (an important one) would stand in the jharoka.

While the current use of these buildings is as a temple, some wonder if they were not, in fact, housing for some Royal family? (Or another such “high” family of the times). These windows are more of what you would expect of a palace, not a temple.

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To the left is another building in the same style. I guess it was built at the same time.

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On the wall upstairs on the walls are paintings.

Likewise, these paintings are more of what you expect from a palace. This makes my curiosity greater; just how were these actually used in the 1700s when they were built? Certainly at that time this was already a major Hindu site, with not only Galav, but other major gurus since then, as well as the sacred springs for holy bathing.

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A common subject is Krishna, here with gopis, maiden cowherds.

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Ramgopalji temple entrance. We did not enter, because our guide wanted us to go up to another temple. Does this look like a temple to you? Of the entrance to a palace?

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Looking further into the Galtaji site. This looks like something from some fantasy to me, so exotic.

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Another old building, falling down. This really gives me an idea of the age of this site.

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A bull? I thought this was the monkey temple?

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Closer to the next part of the temple site.

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To The Monkey Temple

Next we go up a set of stairs through the mountains to see the monkey temple.

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The first thing we see is a big water tank, calm and reflecting the buildings that surround it. This is the Zanana Kund.

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Water runs into it from the spring above. It is still and beautiful, not a ripple.

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In the center of the kund is a circular platform, with a seashell, a conch? on it. This temple site is sacred to Vishnu, so that fits. Evenly spaced around the conch are remnants of incense.

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It is believed that Saint Galav spent his life and performed his tapas (spiritual austerities) for 100 years here. Pleased with his penance, the gods appeared before him and blessed his place of worship with abundant water. To honor this great rishi, a temple was built here and it was named after him. Taking a dip in this abundant water, the natural springs of Galtaji, is considered very auspicious and is said to cleanse a person of his sins.

The largest festival at this site during every full moon of the Hindu month Karthik, when it is said that Siva, Vishnu and Brahma all visit this place. Bathing in the holy waters at that time gives divine blessings. (Note this is the same night as the peak of the annual Siva Deepam festival at Tiruvannamalai, and a Brahma one at Pushkar, so these gods must really get around that night!)

The Galta Kund is the holiest of the tanks and is believed to never get dry. A spring of pure water flows from the ‘Gaumukh’, a rock shaped like a cow’s head, into the tank.

In the photo below, Carol pours water from the Galta Kund onto herself to receive the blessing of this special place. Our guide for the day, Kameesh, looks on.

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Carol went inside here. This was a changing room area restricted to women (except for the altar and priest, outside).

The priest below blessed her and tied a sacred red string bracelet around her right wrist.

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Carol got permission to photograph the altar. You can see Ganesh to the right. Who are the other two gods? In south India, if one was Ganesh the others would also be Saivite Gods. In this Vaishnavite place, I am not so sure.

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We start seeing monkeys. Here are a pair of macaques.

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Another bull, this one walking up the stairs. Carol greets it. There is barely room for them both on the stairs.

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Next is the Galav Rishi Mandir.

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More monkeys.

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People are offering pooja at the Galav Rishi Mandir. This is where his ashram is said to have been, 500 years ago.

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We go up, too, for a pooja.

The priest gave us specific permission to photograph the gods in here.

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There are four in a row, and one at the bottom. There is also an opalescent Nandi in front.

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This is supposed to be Galav.

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I do not know who the next gods are, but their forms are intriguing.

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The eyes of these gods are given the kind of treatment that you might see in a Jain temple. The iconography is not Hindu, though this clearly is a Hindu place.

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I love this one!

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Mother monkey and child, drinking from one of the tanks.

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There are Langur monkeys here, too.

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Even a sow with her baby pigs.

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Monkey care.

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Above us at the top of the hill is a Sun God, Surya, temple. We are not going to make the climb up.

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I notice a motor bike, and the seat is covered with stones? Why?

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Then I see the motor bike next to it. No more explanation is needed: Monkeys.

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Monkeys sitting in a row on a wall.

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A monkey is hoarding the food offered, by sitting on it.

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An offering to one of the monkeys.

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Young monkeys play.

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This is a favorite monkey hangout.

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We turn around and leave. On the way out I see another scene that looks like out of some Oriental fantasy.

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On the road, we notice that bulls are decorated. This is the kind of thing that they do for Divali, coming soon!

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Suraj Devra Mandir

On the way back to Jaipur we see, on top of the hill, the temple that we could have walked up to, the Diwan Kriparam, the Sun Temple, dedicated to Surya, the Sun God.

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Jaigarh Fort

We next went to the Jaigarh, on the hill above the Amber fort.

Jaigarh Fort sits on a hill called the Hill of Eagles (Cheel ka Teela) of the Aravalli range; it overlooks the Amber Fort and the Maota Lake, near Amer in Jaipur. This fort could easily defend a broad area.

Here it is on the hill above us as we drive.

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The fort is painted pink, after the pink city of Jaipur.

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It is a popular place for school tours.

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Here the walls and gate ahead show their age. After all, it was built by Jai Singh II in 1726, so it is almost 300 years old.

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One claim to fame here is the world’s largest cannon, the Jaivana.

It is housed in this shed, at the top of the fort.

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From the scale, against the size of the nearby people, you can see just how big it is. The barrel is 20 feet long and weighs 50 tons–100,000 pounds! It is said to have a range of 22 miles.

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The best part of its story is that it was only fired one time, to test it. Jai Singh II was such a brilliant Maharaja that he was never attacked, so the cannon was never used in war.

Myths of the Jaivana and its firing power

From Wikipedia:

About 100 kg (220 lb) of gunpowder fired a shot ball weighing 50 kg (110 lb).

The uses and range of the cannon and cannonballs vary over different sources. Some say the Jaivana Cannon was only fired once by the Jai Singh II, as a test-fire in 1720 and the then Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah is known to have attended the event before ousting the Sayyid Brothers from power. The most exaggerated myth claims that the weapon had a range of 40 km (25 mi), other sources say it is 35, 22 or 11 km (6.8 mi), although the exact range could perhaps never be determined without adequate scientific computation. Most sources agree that it was fired in the direction of Chaksu. The impact is said by many to be powerful enough to have caused a depression where a pond can be seen today. The Jaivana cannon is the largest wheeled cannon ever constructed.

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Below us are the walls of the fort.

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The flags shown below repeat a famous claim of Jai Singh II. There is a flag, and another quarter-sized one above it. This shows that Jai Singh II was “a man and a quarter,” so proclaimed by the Mughal Emperor.

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The crenellations are in the Rajashtani style, in an Arabic arch. Through each are downward-facing firing ports. Occasionally there is a bigger port for a cannon.

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Gatore Ki Chhatriya

The last thing on our tour for today was the Royal Crematorium. We have seen other Indian cremation grounds, and so did not expect much. Boy, were we surprised!

The Gatore Ki Chhatriya was a royal crematorium site for Jaipur’s maharajas. A cenotaph (empty tomb or monument for a person whose remains are elsewhere) was constructed in recognition of each of the more famous maharajas cremated there.

Here is the entrance.

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Past the entrance we see the chhatris on the cenotaph. This is another place that is a bit off the standard tourist track, so it was less crowded, and peaceful.

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This large cenotaph is at the entrance. This is for the last ruling Maharaja of Jaipur, Mor Mukut Singh, 21 August 1912 – 24 June 1970. So this was built in the last 40 years or so.

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These are all carved from marble, with exquisite workmanship.

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I think these smaller ones may have been for a queen, a maharani. In the old days when the maharaja died and was cremated, his wife (or wives) would commit sati, burn themselves to death by throwing themselves onto his funeral pyre.

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Looking into a large chhatri, I think for Jai Singh II.

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On the floor of some of these are inlay pictures.

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Looking through one of the cenotaphs.

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Each cenotaph is decorated with carvings related to the specific maharaja. Some also make nice places for pigeons.

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Looking from one building to another.

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Two smaller chhatris, Maharanis of Jai Singh II?

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I think this is the Maharaja killing a tiger from horseback.

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Looking through another one of the cenotaphs.

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This cenotaph pictured below has a special story. We were told that a plague came into Jaipur. The Maharaja, his queens, and 14 of their children all died. Even being king does not protect one from death. This the end for the illustrious Jai Singh II.

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The fourteen children all had their remains housed in this building.

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In the center, probably for the oldest son.

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Another cenotaph behind the one for the fourteen children.

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This one is filled with carvings.

The Maharaja riding an elephant, I think into battle.

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This looks like some palace scene.

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Are they conquering some place? Does the Maharaja have a sword in his raised hand? It looks like his other hand holds the topnotch of someone, as if he is going to behead them.

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This looks like a temple.

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This chhatri creates a wonderful domed space at the center.

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Elephants meet. Is this a combat scene?

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Someone, the Maharaja? surrounded by Nagas (snake gods).

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There are also wonderful and delicate carvings at the base of some of the pillars.

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I guess this is the Maharaja, giving wine to his Maharani.

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Look at the close-up of the fine marble carving.

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A guardian figure, holding a club. It is in good condition, though the animal at his feet has two of its legs broken off, and its nose. 

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Another view of this building, so you can see the construction and carving of the pillars.

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Behind the cremation grounds are the walls and towers used to protect all the special places in and around Jaipur.

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A painting on a wall of the grounds, the goddess Sarasvathi.

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Well, there are so many fabulous places to visit in Jaipur! This is a place with a long history, especially of the Rajasthan Maharajas. We were in Jaipur only two days and have seen so much, and there is more to see that we will not visit, since the next day we will head out to the next destination of our tour, the havelis that are on the 18th century camel route through the desert of North Rajasthan.

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One Response to “Jaipur: Monkey Temple, Fort and Royal Crematorium”

  1. Ronald Faraldo Says:

    thank you Richard for taking me to these places!!

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