Houses of the Holy: Yoga at Galtaji Temple

 Temple Grounds, Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

Temple Grounds, Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

 Students practicing yoga inversions at Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

Students practicing yoga inversions at Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

It was an honour and a privilege to lead yoga at dawn in the Galtaji Temple complex of Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Never before had a group practiced yoga on these holy grounds, but with special permission from His Holiness Jagadguru Shri Swami Sampatkumar Avadheshacharya Ji Maharaj, our Inspired India 2018 tour was welcomed inside the ancient pilgrimage site.

The Galtaji site consits of a series of temples built into a narrow crevice in the Aravalli Hills of Jaipur, and has been a retreat for Hindu ascetics of the Vaishnav Ramanuj sect since the early 1400s. The temples are built around a natural spring that fills sacred kunds (water tanks) in which pilgrims come to bathe. It is still one of India’s most visited pilgrimage spots.

We arrived in the dark hour before dawn and climbed the steps to a temple courtyard, which we shared with a group of young monks who were chanting their morning prayers. Music and mantra filled the air, and so did the local monkeys, who began to leap around the rooftops as the sun came up. We moved and breathed and bathed in the devotional sound, we jumped through vinyasas as the monkeys jumped into trees, and we sat in stillness on the stone floor that we shared with our young spiritual companions. After practice, droplets of rain began to fall from the sky and we were welcomed inside for hot chai and sweets with His Holiness, Maharaji of Shri Galta Peetham.

Unbeknownst to me, Maharaji had understood the sincerity of our practice and had generously set aside some time for a private audience with our group. We were unexpectedly treated to an hour of spiritual discourse, covering subject matter such as daily practice and prosperous living. He weaved vedic knowledge into modern lifestyle and shared insights from his own life and practice.

A rare opportunity with a living spiritual master, this was a moment that I’ll remember forever. The group and I are beyond grateful to His Holiness, the priests and the monks of Galtaji.

What a moment.

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 Prvritta Parsvakonasana. Yoga session at Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

Prvritta Parsvakonasana. Yoga session at Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

 Victoria Leader teaching at Galtaji during Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

Victoria Leader teaching at Galtaji during Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

 Prasarita Padottanasana preparation vinyasa. Yoga at Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

Prasarita Padottanasana preparation vinyasa. Yoga at Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

 Ocean taking in the Pilgrims’ Paradise, Shri Galtaji during Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

Ocean taking in the Pilgrims’ Paradise, Shri Galtaji during Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

 Spiritual Companions and Morning Songs. Young monks at Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

Spiritual Companions and Morning Songs. Young monks at Shri Galtaji, Inspired India 2018. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

 His Holiness Maharaj of Shri Galtaji while speaking with the Inspired India 2018 group. Photography by Precious LaPlante.

His Holiness Maharaj of Shri Galtaji while speaking with the Inspired India 2018 group. Photography by Precious LaPlante.