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  • Writer's pictureValentina

An extraordinary December: the Monkey Temple

 Galta Ji Temple, Jaipur, India - dicembre 2023

Sara had not returned to that place for four months. It had left her with an indelible memory and she wanted to share it with us. So we caught up with her and, accompanied by a driver, headed for the Galtaji Temple.

Initially, the driver dropped us off at an entrance that did not appear to be the main one, pointing us to an uphill dirt road that would lead us on foot to the entrance. Everything indicated that this was not the usual route: dirt, howling monkeys and poverty among precarious huts with barefoot children. Sara did not remember this entrance. We insisted that the driver take us to the real entrance, and he did. As we entered the courtyard of the first tank, we realised we were among the few people there. The words of the vaccine doctor resounded in my head: 'do not visit the Monkey Temple, it is not recommended'. As we photographed the holy water with the temple among the rocks, Meri quickly removed from his neck the wreath given to him by a Brahmin at the previous temple. Before I could think of the sin of throwing it away, an adult baboon grabbed it from the ground and devoured flower after flower. Good Meri. Baboons were everywhere. The smell of the sacred water permeated our senses, and in the days that followed I could still imagine it perfectly. We decided to go up, via the upper pools, where brave Indians were bathing completely naked.

Sara was stunned: she did not remember that smell, that colour, or those huge fish struggling to breathe underwater. The place seemed to have undergone an incomprehensible degradation in four months. Avoiding the monkeys everywhere, we reached the last tank; there seemed to be an exit. Just in the direction of the exit, a huge baboon suddenly screamed showing its teeth at Sara and Yas, triggering their screams and then our screams. An epic scene full of terror and hysteria. In the total silence of a few moments before, everyone was screaming: us, the baboons and the caretaker. We had gathered in a circle, back to back, for fear of possible attacks. The caretaker, noticing our fright, showed us the way, advising us to turn back. We then started to descend, I was in front and had Elisa behind me, I felt calm. Elisa makes me calm. I was wrong. Halfway down, a huge baboon decided to get angry and climbed onto the electric pylon, not at all stable. Screaming, it started flailing on the pole. I don't know what it wanted but it stared at us and screamed, we paralysed. The pole on which the monkey was swinging bent on the stairs and it seemed impossible to pass under it, I was paralysed. The monkey was screaming, screaming as if to say 'you have broken my balls'.

We were still. Sara and Elena shouted 'come on let's go now' and my legs regained mobility. I started to walk briskly, I could hear the others running behind. A few more metres, that was it. We were out, away from the crazy baboon and his pole. Hello. It was not the right day to catch rabies.

Shortly after we passed through the main gate, two sweet children, little brothers, followed us begging. In a spontaneous gesture, we shared some biscuits with them. As we got into the car, the older brother, with his big eyes and contagious smile, begged us: 'chocolate'. His request moved us deeply. Sara took a chocolate bar we had in the car and handed it to him. The little one unwrapped it in the blink of an eye, smiling. Then his mother arrived, saw them with biscuits and a candy bar, but no money, asked him for something and then hit the eldest with a hard slap.

This scene broke our hearts, yet we would like to imagine that it happened to teach them that too many sweets can hurt, that that gesture had an educational intent.This was our encounter with India at the Galtaji Temple, a mixture of sweetness and cruel reality.


 Galta Ji Temple, Jaipur, India
 Galta Ji Temple
  Galta Ji Temple, Jaipur, India
 Galta Ji Temple around
 Galta Ji Temple, Jaipur, India
The monkey and the necklace
  Galta Ji Temple, Jaipur, India
 Galta Ji Temple around

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