Haunting tale of Kuldhara – A ghost village
The mystery of Kuldhara entices everyone’s imagination. What were the events leading to Kuldhara turning into a ghost village, overnight ? There are intriguing stories around these – some believable, others continue to be a mystery.
These reasons propelled Kuldhara to the top of my list of things to do while in Jaisalmer. As we entered the site, now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), I couldn’t help the feeling of sadness and desolation of the original inhabitants of the place. How would I feel if I were forced to leave the place I called home, forever ?
Village of Kuldhara is said to have been established by the Paliwal Brahmins in 1291, who were a prosperous community. They were both businessmen and agriculturist. They devised ingenious and innovative irrigation systems. Get this – at that time they were aware of techniques for growing water guzzling crops like wheat in deserts !
Kuldhara is about 17 Kms from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India. This village and 84 other adjoining villages, had been abandoned overnight on the day of Rakshabandhan in 1825. Apparently, this is why some of the Paliwal Brahmins do not celebrate this festival !
The tragic story narrated by a young boy we met at the ruins
The then minister of state, Salim Singh, on one of his trips through the village caught a glimpse of the lovely daughter of the village chief and fell in love. He expressed a desire to marry her , which was declined by the father since the minister was not a Rajput by birth. Acting on the rebuff, the minister threatened to levy huge taxes on Kuldhara and the neighbouring 84 villages. He indicated that when the girl is of marriageable age, he will come to get her, willing or otherwise ! The villagers asked for 10 days to discuss the matter internally. Maybe they succumbed to the threat of heavy taxes or fled to save the village daughter from a certain disastrous marriage, in their opinion. I could commiserate with the girl who unwittingly caused uprooting of so many families and utter abandonment of villages, that were once flourishing. While I walked through the ruins, I couldn’t help thinking – What happened to her ? Did she hold herself responsible for this uprooting? Did the others ? I am sure it would not have been a happy story. I wish the ruins could speak up and share her wishes, emotions and thoughts.
Its is said that before they left, the Paliwal Brahmins cursed the place that it would never be inhabited again. There could be some truth in this. How else would you explain no re-settlement in these villages for almost 200 years now ? These spectacular ruins are one of the places where Indian Paranormal Society has registered significant paranormal activity ! Could this be the reason that no one stays back in the ruins after dark ? There is surely something eerie about the place.
As we explore the place a bit more on foot, we discover a deserted step well. With its crumbling steps and dark unwelcoming entrance, I would not advice getting down at all. We definitely did not !
Next we chanced upon this really bottomless village well with no barricade whatsoever. I tried peeping in but a chill washed over me. What if there was any truth in the haunted stories about the place. Was there a voice whispering to me, even hoping, that I get closer! The thought made me beat a hasty retreat to the safety of firmer ground. It could really be nothing – but that’s the effect of Kuldhara on you !
Along the barren grounds we discovered carved pillar marking water sources in this arid desert landscape.
With some government funding to attract more visitors to this abandoned settlement, structures are now being restored to represent the opulence that the Paliwals left behind, which now lay in ruins.
Check out the intricately carved jharokhas (windows) of a restored Paliwal home. It is sheer poetry.
I just wish the silent stones could help unravel the mystery and explain
- How and why did the Paliwal brahmins disappear overnight ?
- Where did they go ?
- What was going in the pretty girl’s head during all this upheaval ?
- What happened to her after the migration ?
I guess this will remain a mystery which many travelers after me would be looking for in these ruins !
Travel Tips from my experience
- Jaislamer, also known as the Golden City, is the closest city to Kuldhara.
- The best way to reach Kuldhara is by road. You can hire a car to get there. It is a small detour coming back from the Sam sand dunes in Jaisalmer.
- The best months to visit Rajasthan is October through February. Do plan to visit in the am if possible, to avoid the sun.
- Carry a cap, enough water to keep you hydrated and don’t forget to carry sunscreen along with you.
- Wear sensible walking shoes and be careful around open wells in the ruin site.
- For the not so faint-hearted, you could try Suryagarh’s signature Chudail (female ghost) Trail. This is a trek within Kuldhara site after dark. Just the thought makes me shudder ! Would love to hear from anyone who has been to this trail.
- If this destination excites you, you may also consider Bhangarh Fort, India’s ‘most haunted’ place. It is located 52 kms from Jaipur, Rajasthan’s Pink City.