Off Season Tourist - India Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Two weeks in India, 2003 Notes from the Off Season Tourist
Fathepur Sikri and The Galta Monkey Temple
The Taj Mahal is nice, but the Monkey Temple is incredible.

After our morning trip to the Taj Mahal, we travel west, to Jaipur. On the way, we make two stops; one planned (Fathepur-Sikri), the other suggested by Sanju (Galta Monkey Temple). The ancient city of Fathepur-Sikri is the first stop and, as our guide tells us more than once, the name can be broken down into sections. "Fathe, meaning victory and pur meaning city and sikri meaning 'of'. City of victory." We are not sure of his derivation especially since the guidebook says that the literal translation for Jaipur is Victory City!

Julie and Guide
Julie and Guide outside Fathepur-Sikri

Our guide has an interesting way of showing tourists the city. He does it by not taking them inside. There is an outer area to the city and then the inner area that requires a fee. Walking around the outer area he takes us to a high point, on top of the dome of a Turkish bath, on which he tells us to stand. He then points out all the buildings of the interior city and tells us a little bit about each. His stories are of interest, especially the one about the use of an elephant to perform capital punishment on Fridays when the king would publically execute convicted murderers. There is a large circle of stone in the courtyard, which the elephant would be chained to throughout the process. All tourist sites in India have the story of the site chiseled into marble or stone slabs. On one such slab we read that, contrary to common belief, the circle of stone in the courtyard was not used to hold elephant executioners, but rather as a mooring point for tent covers to provide shade. What our guide lacked for in accuracy, he made up for it by his enthusiastic tales of adventure.

Highest archway
The largest archway in the world is on the other side of this gate

Our guide then takes us to another public area of the city, a shrine, where we foil an attempt to force us to pay 150 Rps. for an offering of some red paper and flowers, by claiming we don't have small change. The courtyard around the shrine is vast, and the pattern of the marble latticework carved into each wall within the shrine is never once repeated. We follow along to the piece de resistance; the largest archway in the world. The guide rattles off the dimensions to us, which are meaningless until we see it for ourselves. Interestingly, it is not the highest arched door that this site lays claim to holding the record, rather it is the largest archway. It is so big that a single camera shot cannot capture it in its entirety, so, if you want to see it, you will have to go to India.

Next stop: Galta Temple. Sanju suggested we stop, but we'd seen so many temples and had been up since 5 a.m., so we weren't too keen on stopping. It was only when he said, "Monkeys, many monkeys", did Julie perk up and agree to go. The temple is in the hills outside Jaipur. On the ride up we saw wild peacocks, langurs, monkeys and of course, lots of cows. Once through the temple gates, we saw scores of the ubiquitous smallish brown Indian monkeys, eating fruits brought to them by the locals. As is usually the case in India, where you find monkeys being fed, you'll also find cows and pigs to eat the fruit rinds that the monkeys don't eat. The monkeys had such a commanding presence that it really felt as if they owned the place. And watch this great video of a monkey playing with a bag. It's Julie's personal favorite and never fails to crack her up!

Monkeyss with clothes
Monkeys tearing apart clothes they stole from villagers bathing in the holy springs at the temple

A cow on the Galta temple steps
A cow walking up steps at the Galta Temple

Wall of monkeys
the Temple is teeming with monkeys

Monkey sitting
A monkey sitting on a metal frame

Monkey with pants
A monkey chewing on the elastic in a pair of undergarments stolen from a bathing villager

cow and monkeys
Cows are always sacred. In the monkey god temple, so are his friends.

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