They are Rock Stars! Action heroes of National Geographic Channel series MONKEY THIEVES!

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Galta Gang – Gang of  Sixty! Tarak the Boss! Rani the Queen! Bipin, Yash, Tito – Rowdy Teens! Zamir Mr.Devious! They jump out of the windows and run around Jaipur’s Pink City like action movie heroes! They are modern soldiers of god Hanuman, who is considered reincarnation of God Shiva, devotee of Rama, central character in the Indian epic Ramayana.

Galtaji - God Hanuman
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – God Hanuman covered with sindoor, orange color of fire, which symbolize his tapa, but also happiness.As per mythology when Hanuman learnt that Lord Ram likes Sita adorning sindoor, he decided to put sindoor on entire body. Thus Lord Rama gave a boom to all his devotees, that those, who apply sindoor on Hanuman and observe Hanuman puja with sindoor would be blessed by longer life and happiness.

Galta Gang, a sixty-strong troop  lives in the Galta Temple, a beautiful Hindu temple on the outskirts of Jaipur. This enduring and entertaining bunch live in luxury because worshipers believe they personify Hanuman, the cherished ‘Monkey God’ who banished evil in the Indian epic Ramayana. Defending their prized home from invaders including neighboring langur monkeys and other troops of macaques, as well as exploring Jaipur in search of food and adventure, keeps this remarkable troop in action.

Galtaji
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – Galtaji is an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site in the town of Khania-Balaji, about 10km away from Jaipur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The site consists of several temples and sacred kunds (water tanks) in which pilgrims bathe. Built within a mountain pass within the Aravalli Hills 10 km. east of Jaipur. Galtaji has been a retreat for Hindu ascetics since the early 1500s. Its present temple was built by Diwan Rao Kriparam, a courtier of Sawai Jai Singh II, in the 18th century.

When the annual Monsoon rains fail to appear as scheduled, a drought threatens the desert city’s food supply and Jaipur’s human population has no surplus resources to divert to the Galta Gang. Fewer people willing to hand out food to the macaques at the temple means empty bellies, forcing Tarak to leave their precious temple home unguarded as he leads his family into the city in search of feeding opportunities.

Galtaji
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – Hanuman is worshipped by villagers as a boundary guardian, by Shaiva ascetics as a Yogi, and by wrestlers for his strength. There are numerous temples for Hanuman, and his images are usually installed at all temples where images of avatars of Vishnu are installed. Hanuman temples are believed to keep the area and surroundings free of rakshasas (demons) and other evil beings. Hanuman idols are found on mountain roads because it is believed that he protects people from accidents.

Their ambitious neighbors the langur monkeys try to steal ownership of the ancient temple but the Galta Gang returns, launching into battle and forcing the langurs to flee. Life for the Galta Gang is full of surprises. Zamir and his new troop launch a takeover bid for the temple but the Galta Gang holds them off as well. Zamir is eventually captured by the city’s ‘Monkey Catcher’ and relocated 70 miles away. Tarak, the long-term alpha male of the Galta Gang, dies from wounds he sustains during the battle with Zamir’s troop. Rani, the queen of the troop, also disappears, turning up days later with her newest baby at her breast. With their king gone and Zamir no longer a threat, Kamal, Tarak’s second in command, takes over leadership of the Galta Gang.

Galtaji
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – The temple complex of Ramgopalji temple is colloquially known as Monkey temple (Galwar Bagh) , due to the large tribe of monkeys who live here. These rhesus macaques were featured in National Geographic Channel’s Rebel Monkeys series and ‘Thar Desert – Sacred sand’ episode of Wildest India Series.

Season two of the series rejoins the Galta Gang several months after the death of Tarak. Kamal, the new alpha male, does not have the skills necessary to lead the troop. But there’s an even greater concern. The Galta Gang’s population has reached over 80 members. Macaque troops usually undergo a process known as fission when their number approach this level. Lower-class members including featured teenagers Bipin, Yash and Tito, plus as many as 40 others, splinter away from the main group of ruling elite including queen Rani, alpha Kamal and the other upper-class members.

Galtaji
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – Galtaji has been a retreat for Hindu ascetics belonging to vaishnavite Ramanandi sect, since the early 1500s. It is believed that a Saint named Galav lived here, practiced meditation, and did penance.

The splinter troop splits off under the rule of a new leading pair, alpha male Devdin and queen Chaia, establishing residence in the city after finding themselves unable to rejoin the Galta Gang. Zamir, the ex-Galta Gang rebel who has been living in the wild since he was relocated by the ‘monkey catcher’, finds his way back to Jaipur, searching for his original family, the Galta Gang. The Galta Gang lose their temple home to a troop of Langur monkeys and are forced to find a new territory in the city.

Galtaji
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – Hanuman is the only deity who may be worshiped in the event of trouble by evil spirits. In Ramayana is written: “Bow down to Hanuman, who is the slayer of demons, and who is present with head bowed and eyes full of flowing tears wherever the fame of Rama is sung.”

Zamir continues his mission to find Rani and his old troop, but instead he runs into the new splinter troop. Rani and the Galta Gang struggle to establish a territory, and during a run-in with the monkey catcher, Rani’s youngest offspring Teejay goes missing. New alpha male Kamal cannot live up to his role as leader and the troop becomes unstable. Little Teejay, Rani’s lost son, tries to find his missing family but instead winds up back at the Galta Temple, where he discovers a new group of primates have taken up residence, the Langur monkeys.

Galtaji - Ramayana
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – The Ramayana tells the story of Rama (an avatar of the Hindu supreme-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka (current day Sri Lanka). The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Bharata, Hanuman, and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal, and many south-east Asian countries.

Hungry and alone, Teejey climbs a high tension power pylon and suffers an electric shock similar to the one Kavi experienced in the first season. He is taken to the same animal rescue charity hospital, ‘Help in Suffering’ where he receives emergency medical treatment, but he dies from his wounds.

Galtaji
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – The rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), is one of the best-known species of Old World monkeys. Rhesus macaques interact using a variety of facial expressive, vocalizations and body postures, and gestures. Perhaps the most common facial expression the macaque makes is the “silent bared teeth” face. This is made between individuals of different social ranks with the lower ranking one giving the expression to its superior. A less dominant individual will also make a “fear grimace” accompanied by a scream to appease or redirect aggression.

The rest of the Galta Gang scrapes a meager living in the streets of Jaipur where they eventually run into the splinter troop, who cause them to flee in fear. Zamir eventually locates Rani and the Galta Gang, but instead of launching an attack, he leads the troop to find food. Eventually he even leads them back to the Galta Temple, where under his leadership they are able to evict the langur monkeys and take back residence of their temple home. Zamir, once the biggest villain of the troop, is now the alpha male of the Galta Gang. With Rani at his side he is finally lord and master of the Galta Temple.

Text: Zuzana Zwiebel, inspired by Wikipedia –  National Geographic Channel series MONKEY THIEVES


ART OF TRAVEL: www.shaktitrails.com

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