If you look at the monkeys, you can learn many things about the men; if you look at the men, you can learn many things about the madness! ~Mehmet Murat ildan
I have always been enchanted by monkeys. From the antics of Curious George in the children’s books of the same name to Chim Chim in the Speed Racer cartoon to the stories of Jane Goodall and her life with Chimpanzees and Diane Fossey with hanging out with the Gorillas.
Monkeys are exotic. They invoke images of swinging between trees in deeply forested verdant jungles along side Tarzan as he rescues Jane from the evil doer.
At times, monkeys seem almost human
In the US, we don’t have monkey people. Well, that’s not quite accurate. We don’t have monkey people roaming free to exercise God’s gift of life in their own way. All monkey people in the USA are either imprisoned in zoos where they are displayed for the amusement of the masses. That’s if they are relatively lucky. If not lucky, they are imprisoned in labs (also in cages) where they are used for experimental purposes ostensibly to improve the life of the human people. I don’t even want to think about that!
Monkeys in Pune
The first place I encountered monkeys after moving to India was at an old fort in the heart of the city. I was on the upper walkway facing back to the fort entrance when a monkey came running by me within a foot of startling me in the process. Walking a bit further, I came upon a number of them sitting on the fort walls and climbing in the trees. They were black faced with long tails.
The monkeys allowed me to approach fairly closely except for the mother which kept a wary eye on my movements. She was unhappy when the camera was pointed in her direction and moved away. I was lucky to get at least one shot of mother and child without their notice.
Needless to say, I was thrilled at the close encounters and shot a bunch of pics most which were on the blurry side.
Monkeys on the Road to Goa
The road to Goa included a mountain based waterfall surrounded by lush greenery. This turned out to be a fruitful monkey sighting location. They were on the sides of the road picking at the human discarded trash, perched in trees watching the humans in the hopes of a delectable morsel or two, and resting in the greenery picking at their natural foods.
We, JJ and I, were warned not to bring any food out of the car for the smell would attract the monkeys and expose us to possible altercations, ones that would see us on the wrong end of sharp teeth. I had no desire to bleed or get rabies shots so heeded my drivers recommendations.
It also might expose my camera gear to a curious simian which, once they had it in their possession, it would be nearly impossible to retrieve
It was a rainy day, heavily overcast, perfect for vibrant pictures when the raindrops took a brief respite.
Monkeys at the Amber (Amer) Fort in Jaipur
Happening upon Monkeys caught Irene and I by surprise while exploring the vast structure known as the Amber Fort. We had explored for the better part of two hours with the only wildlife catching our eyes was the large birds soaring overhead.
The fort is a virtual labyrinth of rooms both hidden from view and exposed to the sky narrowing our view so, in retrospect, it’s not much of a surprise that we didn’t spot any monkeys while traversing the inner sanctum of the fort.
Near the end of our self guided tour, we were walking on the upper levels of the fort when they first came into view high upon the walls and domes of the magnificent structure. A few walked on the edge of the walls, most relaxed in the shade with their mates. A number of them held on to the tails of other monkeys.
This species looked very similar to the monkeys I encountered in Pune. However, not being a primatologist, I can’t say if they truly were the same.
Galta Monkey Temple in Jaipur
The most active and largest number of monkeys we encountered was at the Galta Monkey Temple, a temple honoring the Hindu monkey god Lord Hanuman. From the moment we approached the temple complex, we started seeing monkeys strolling about picking at food stuffs.
Though we were not visiting at the evening peak time when thousands come to the village around the temple for food provided both by the people of Galta and tourists, they were everywhere we walked.
These monkeys showed very little fear of humans which is not surprising since locals and tourists feed them. After seeing some videos on YouTube of tourists feeding them and the monkeys being very friendly, I was disappointed we hadn’t brought along a few bag fulls of peanuts. When asked at the entrance if we would like to buy some monkey food I declined with the admonishment of my driver going to Goa that food can bring about some bad behaviors and possibly pain in the form of gnashing teeth.
We visited the temple proper where we required to put our shoes in a locked cage. According to the priest, the monkeys can be mischievous and, if they acquired our shoes, we would not see them again.
After leaving the temple and continuing up the mountain path, the number of monkeys steadily increased. We saw two species here. One which looked like the monkeys on the road to Goa, which were by far the more numerous, and the other similar to the monkeys at the Amber Fort of which we only saw a few.
For the most part, the monkeys ignored us. There was one exception. Walking down from the mountain back toward the temple, a large male stood his ground, bristled his fur, and stared at us. Of course, this triggered the male ego in me and I wanted to walk toward him and see who would flinch first. Luckily (for me), I am no longer completely controlled by testosterone so I made the smart choice gave him a wide berth.
Monkey = 1, David = 0.
Monkeys At Madurai
Irene and I had one more stop on our whirlwind tour of India. It was in Madurai. While here, we happened upon a driver that grew up in the area and he took us to a temple off the beaten track.
He told us getting us to drive around on our last day in the city was an answer to his prayers. Irene and I felt we were the more blessed ones as we received a locals insight into the temples of Madurai. Our fortune was compounded for we would not have seen the ancient cave temple nor would we have seen any monkeys in Madurai.
It was here that we were able to watch monkeys engaging in the classic monkey behaviour of grooming.
Despite the heat of the day, we were in a shaded area with a gentle breeze that kept us quite comfortable allowing us ample time to observe the monkeys in action.
It’s very easy to anthropomorphize monkeys and think of them as little humans to play with and hold. Reality is these are wild animals and it’s best to keep one’s distance. In my ever dwindling remaining months in India, I have a few more trips planned. I hope to see many more of the monkey people. I’ve heard there is a monkey temple in Kathmandu where I will be headed in May. I hope they will be there to greet me. This time, I will sit for a few hours to see if I can understand the thoughts they are thinking.