BY BELISARIO RIGHI
I have traveled extensively in India, especially in the north-central part, where there are the most beautiful, oldest cities. On my third trip, in 1979, I wanted to visit Rajasthan, a state of Northern India, located west of New Delhi. Rajasthan with an area of 340,000 square kilometers, larger than Italy, extends towards Pakistan, with which it shares the great Thar desert. It has a high population density, although for the most part its territory is arid and desert. Its capital is Jaipur, known as the pink city for the characteristic color of its refined Maru-Gurjara architecture. After two days of staying in Jaipur, I heard from some tourists about the Monkey Temple in Galta, just about ten kilometers from the city.
Galta - As it is today
The monkeys of the Temple
I had to go there, and on the same day, I took a bus in the afternoon. At dusk, under a blue sky, at the end of a gorge with steep walls, where the incessant cawing of crows resounded, making my way among camels, cows and monkeys, in a small valley immersed in the vastness of the desert,
Galta, an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site, appeared to me in all the splendor of its ruins and temples, half immersed in the sand.
Galta - As it was in 1979
Men were digging to bring to light the vestiges of the ancient city, still intact and preserved over time. It must have been many centuries since that day, when a solitary pilgrim placed his stone Ganesha on an improvised macaw, around which other pilgrims gathered in prayer and laid the first stones of the city, yet that day I did not it seemed far away, because I still seemed to hear the prayer of that first priest in the valley. All around, the millenary rocks witnessed these new, human changes, silent and immobile, wondering why they wanted to wrest a city that, only a few centuries earlier, had been abandoned there from the grip of the desert. To those stones, the question remained unanswered, because they could not understand the heart of the human race, which always returns to its own decisions and never assumes a definitive and irreproachable attitude towards history.
A few kilometers away, the desert opened in the direction of Jaisalmer where, trembling in the heat, I saw Ottoman, Afghan, Iraqi, Belucistan and Persian warriors arriving on their white Arab horses, bringing Islam to the land of Brahma. There was only sand in every direction. A region of dust alone and to do that it was not the sea or a perpetual drought, it was only time, only the unchangeable passing of the years had killed that strip of nature, where now even the most coiled ones nested. That was Rajasthan, the land of princes, where he wanted to find the philosopher's stone, the key to knowledge. In those latitudes, not influenced by the transformations of the world, approaching God was more congenial to me and more easily I could have grasped the intimate and profound metamorphosis that I wanted to take place in me. The loneliness and the immensity of those places made me feel lost, but I was aware of this, in fact, to put it in Hesse's words, how not to feel dismay, in being in front of a work composed of infinite books, arranged in such a large library not to be able to see the boundaries? One immediately realizes that one will never be able to read either the first or the last of the volumes, so that the beginning or the end of this work will never be known.
However, by reading a little here, a little there, fragmentarily, one will perhaps be able to perceive its breath and if one will be able to take part in this breath, if one will not triumph, one will at least have participated in the triumph. On the other hand, does not being guests at the table of the gods at least mean having divine affinities? But suddenly, perhaps prey to Stendhal's syndrome, visions came to life in my mind. On the desert sand, on a very high dune, with the sun at noon, in a rarefied and flickering atmosphere, a group of tanks slowly advanced conquering the summit, shooting cannons and machine guns against the sky. On the other side of the dune, in the opposite direction, galloping, men on horseback, with turbans and tunics floating in the air that smelled of sweat and war, clashed on the crest, sabers in hand, with tanks. The shining swords cut the thick steel plates of the wagons like butter, while cannons and machine guns tried to stifle the attack.
Engines packing and white horses neighing and trampling, conquering new positions amidst the smokescreen of dust, massing, producing a mixture of smoking debris, burnt flesh and blood boiling on the burning sheets. The rush of the tanks was enormous, but not least was the strength of the Word of Allah, the Almighty, and the lugubrious mass of spoils rose from the ground in a whirlwind that broke into the sky, spewing, valves. , cranks, thighbones, ears, blood and gasoline. Then the silence, atrocious and eternal and finally the solitary and painful song of the muezzin who, lamenting in the cold of the desert, invoked Allah, while the crows, camels, monkeys, all animals, with their presence beatified Brahma, the Lord of the Universe to which everything leads back. Like every dream, this one too lasted a few seconds, but from those brief moments, I thought I understood the meaning of existence, which is not to live among others, but to live with others, to be part of the whole, not to be a coriander blown away by a breath of wind.