Never be limited by other people’s limited imagination. And that’s the cause why I visited Kuldhara and Bhangarh. Interestingly, both the places have received ample media coverage over the period. Hence I searched a little to find there are many theories, & every possible approach is refreshing. I travelled both the destination at different times, but I found the story of both the places quite similar. The history of both places speaks of riches, power, beauty, prosperity, yet got ruined due to greed, lust, and thirst to be superior. The Archaeological Survey of India maintains both the destination, so not sure about them being haunted but in the eeriness of these places gives you a spooky touch.
I visited kuldhara with my mom during our travel to Jaisalmer. It is a little hamlet tucked away a little over 18km to the west of Jaisalmer-towards Sam Desert. As we held the dusty road, the first thing that took hold of my attention was scant or nonexistence of human presence. Also, the vegetation was minimal & the afternoon sun fiery, what prevailed was an uncanny silence all around. As we entered the gates of Kuldhara village and walked along the roads, all I saw were ruins. Houses that have decayed and fallen, dusty roads, and overgrown shrubs. Since not many people visit this village, considering the eerie ghost stories, the mystique of the place has increased.
Talking about the theories, why was Kuldhara abandoned overnight? We need to lead a dive in history, & go back to the 13th CenturyCentury when Kuldahra was established. Kuldhara village was inhabited by the Paliwal Brahmins, who migrated from the Pali region of western India. This town is composed of 84 communities, which was once home for these Paliwal Brahmins, now narrate ghostly tales. The Paliwal Brahmins were known for their deep understanding of agriculture, as they raised crops in the harsh & dry condition of the desert. They had the skill to distinguish areas that stored gypsum rock, a soft mineral made up of 20% water, beneath the surface. Likewise, with their trading skills worked towards the enlargement & prosperity of the community over six centuries.
So why would a prosperous community just vanish overnight, leaving all belongings behind?
As per the Historians by the early 19th Century, the small town has been deserted possible causes were lack of water and atrocities of a Diwan named Salim Singh. By 1815 most of the wells in the village had dried up, by 1890 only the steep well & other two deep well were functioning. Thus the historical records suggested that the population of the village gradually declined. A study in 2017, revealed facts that Kuldhara & neighbouring villages were destroyed because of an Earthquake. The evidence of Earthquake-related destruction, are collapsed roofs, fallen joists, Lintels & pillar. Such extensive damage cannot be attributed to the normal process of weathering & erosion. The ruins of Kuldhara are an excellent example of the architectural excellence of that era, which draws photographer to the narrow lanes of 410 ruined buildings.
The other theory which is widely admitted & narrated, that’s the sprawling community left to avoid oppression from the ruthless & unfair Diwan Salim Singh. The lecherous Diwan located considerable sum 0f money from the Paliwals in the sort of taxes. But one beautiful day, he put his sight on the daughter of the local Chief. He passed on the entire village an ultimatum to hand over the girl to him or be ready to face dire consequence. Fearing the wrath of the Diwan, they decided to leave the village in the night. Instead of handing over his daughter, the Chief asked the entire village to pack & leave overnight. Nobody saw them departing, but a thousand homes were left empty behind. The local legend claims that while deserting the village, the Paliwals imposed a curse that no one would be able to re-occupy the little town.
Gradually the village acquired the reputation as a haunted place, the entire village wore a desolated look, but alone temple stood amidst the ruins. I wanted to linger a little longer after the sunset, but my driver was not at all comfortable. So we explored the renovated houses, cenotaphs of Kuldhara and the dried up step well. Nobody is allowed hereafter the sunset; then we had to depart. But the walls of sandstone gates, the dried bed of Kakni river is evidence of prolonged human life in Kuldhara, which was destroyed for lust, greed & thirst to be superior.
Post my visit to Kuldhara the next destination I was desperate to visit was the Bhangargh Fort. The storyline of both these places is similar, which are now haunted. Both venues were once an architectural marvel, is now a desolated ruin archaeological site. The Fort stands tall, unbeaten and grim in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. It adjoins the famed Sariska Tiger Reserve. Unlike most forts of Rajasthan, this Fort is not built on the hills instead situated at the foothills on the sloping terrain. I travelled this 17th Century built Bhangarh Fort with friends.
Bhangarh was once a flourished town, but now fort complex has the ruins of Havelis, roofless bazaar and temples. While its principal gate is dilapidated however the other points of entry are intact -like the Delhi, Ajmeri, Phulbari & Lahori Gate. As you walk past the entrance, you will stumble upon various temples adorned with intricate & delicate carving.
Though most of the temples have been abandoned & devoid of deity, but the Hanuman & Shiva temples are still in function. The Gopinath temple is the Largest among the all, made of yellow sandstone. Further ahead, you get to see the priest’s residence, royal chambers, a Nachini ki Haveli but of course in ruins. The place is littered with broken rocks and masonry, a magnificent banyan tree growing through the broken walls, but amidst this stands Someshwar temple intact.
It was getting back to the theories why this prosperous town now in the shadows of the ruins, let us start with historical facts. In 1573 AD Raja Bhagwant Das built this fort for his son Madho Singh. The Kingdom was ruled by Madho Singh, & his son Chatr Singh. The land came to its decline after the violent death of Chatr Singh, & feminine that hit the town in 1783 leaving it deserted turning into ruins. In that era, there is another fact that Bhangarh was probably demolished in the war against Ajabgarh, which is nearby. However, the two folklore that is famous & narrated by various social media sites & to visiting tourist was that Bhangarh was cursed.
According to the legends an ascetic named Baba Balak Nath lived in the fortress area, he insisted that no house in the vicinity should cast shadows on his cave & disturb his meditation. Madho Singh tried his best to stick with the assertion, But in vain. As the sun shifted south in winter, the shadows grew longer and touched Balak Nath’s cave waking him up from his deep meditation. The ascetic issue curse that the town & its people will never be able to build another roof in the vicinity.
The other local tale is of a Tantric named Singhia, who fell in love with Ratnavati, the princess of Bhangarh. Singhia was well versed with black magic, & was attracted towards the unparalleled beauty of the princess. He had tried multiple spells over the princess to seek her attention but all in vain. Then one beautiful day, he came upon Ratnavati’s maid buying perfume in the village marketplace. Seeking the opportunity, he cast a charm on the aroma, whose after use will make the princess fall in love with him. Somehow Ratnavati came to know his plan, & in anger threw the bottle out of the window which stuck the Tantric (another version states she threw it on a boulder which rolled & crushed the Tantric. Synge died of injuries, & on his death bed, he cursed the Bhagngarh town & people. It’s alleged that the fortress was attacked by Mugal invaders, leading to destruction. It is believed that the soul of Tantric still searches Ratnavati in ruins at night.
The fanciful tales have now several versions with changing times. These stranger myths & legend has given a haunted crown to this place, forcing the local populace to build town away from here, and outlaw anyone from entering the grounds after the sunset. This place is likewise accessible as it engages in witchcraft & black magic, cloth & other accessories are strewn around at many spots in the Fort.
To be honest, it’s hard to establish the truth of these theories for both the places are haunted or not. Only the truth is both the prosperous town declined in the thirst of superiority. One should see these destinations to embrace the beauty, affluence & heritage it possessed centuries back, not just for the spooks that the eerie of desolation gives.
How to Reach Kuldhara.
- You can reach Jaisalmer via Air or rail or Road, and it’s well connected with major cities in India.
- From Jaisalmer, you need to hire a cab, as there is no buses or other mood of transport to visit Kuldhara Village.
Can Stay in Jaisalmer or Sam desert. There are multiple resorts, hotels & tents.
How to Reach Bhangarh Fort
The closest airport is Jaipur international airport. From the airport can take taxis for Bangargh which is 90 Km drive.
The closest railway station is Bhan Khari and Dausa. Trains are leaving from Gurgaon & Jaipur. From rail station avail cab till destination or local buses till Gola ka bus.
Driving is the most Scenic & adventurous way to visit. Gurgaon to Bhangargh is 243 km, a 5hrs drive.
Can Stay in Alwar, Jaipur or Sariska there are many hotels & resorts.