A trip to the haunted Bhangarh Fort (in Rajasthan, India) had been on my travel list for a long time. We alternated between enthusiasm and trepidation for many years. Each time we came close to planning the logistics, we were dissuaded by friends and family. But one day, we decided to just go for it. After all, how much longer were we going to watch TV series such as Supernatural, and not go out there and experience it ourselves.
Some old, dilapidated, lonely buildings have that creepy feeling. Even the intrepid reporter, hungry for an interesting story, would seriously hesitate to venture into such a place all alone. Bhangarh Fort is one such place. In fact, it is regularly listed in the top 10 ‘most haunted’ places of India. Much has been written and quite a few documentaries have been made on this fort and all of them end with the same question: Is this whole thing just hyped or is the fort really haunted? Believe me, no one wants to be the one to find that out.
New Delhi to Bhangarh is about 255 kms and it takes about 5 and half hours by road. We travelled to Bhangarh from Jaipur so we had to cover only 52 kms.
A good time to visit this place is just after the rainy season. Don’t plan a trip during the hot months – the summer heat will kill you. And don’t plan a trip during the winter months because the days are very short. It gets dark quickly and the spook factor spikes.
Please take your own water and stuff to eat. Contrary to what is claimed, there are no real eateries on the way (at least between Jaipur and Bhangarh) and nothing of course at Bhangarh. Not that you would have an appetite while you’re freaking out. On a serious note, make sure your vehicle is topped up with fuel. Needless to say, ensure that your cell phones are fully charged. Carry a data bank for backup — I do.
The road leading to Bhangarh was beautiful most of the way. The moment we left Jaipur behind, the traffic dwindled. It seemed like we were headed to Bhangarh quite alone. We got the surreal feeling that no one wanted to be any where near us. To reassure ourselves, we checked to see if we had remembered to carry the ice hammer. Supernatural diehards believe that the presence of metal keeps ghosts away.
About Bhangarh Fort
This is a 17th Century fort, built in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, which is a state situated in the northern part of India.
There are two legends that explain the ‘ghostliness’ of the Bhangarh Fort.
According to pop folklore, in the days of yore, a local magician Singhia fell in love with the beautiful Princess Ratnavati of Bhangarh. He tried to lure her into falling in love with him by mixing some magic into her cosmetic oil. But the princess sensed something was not quite right and threw the oil out which landed on a rock which in turn rolled over the sorcerer, crushing him to death. Before he died, he cursed the entire city including her and prophesied that no one in and around the area would ever be able to live happily.
The second legend claims that when Emperor Madho Singh decided on building the Bhangarh fort, he had to seek the permission of an ascetic Guru Balu Nath, who used to meditate there. The ascetic agreed on the condition that the fort should be built in such a way that no shadow would be cast over his home. All was well until one of the ambitious successors of the king added a few more floors to the palace. This inevitably resulted in a shadow engulfing the ascetic’s abode. The ascetic was angered and cast a curse on the city. Although his curse turned the beautiful palace into ruins, his tomb still stands here!
No roads want to lead to Bhangarh?
We crossed the last small village where every other shop showcased beautiful idols and other artifacts, chiseled out of marble.
There were very few people around. This looked like a deserted, ghost village. A small board indicated the turn onto the road to Bhangarh, which was now only 3 kms away.
This stretch of road was quite bad, lonely and in the middle of nowhere — certainly not a place for a car breakdown. The road was broken and wet, though I failed to recall at what point during our journey it had rained. There was slush all around. Clouds had started to descend, covering most of the Aravalis on either side. Our chatter quietened down as we turned onto this road. I tightened my grip on the ice hammer. What I really wanted to do was turn around and head home very fast.
I digress here to tell you about a friend who went to Bhangarh soon after we did. He sent us the picture below. They were behind this truck for over two kilometers as they approached Bhangarh. The messaging on the rear of the truck held out some reassurance. Translated it means, “Ghosts and docile wives are a figment of your imagination. Such things don’t exist”. Okaaay — that was some comfort…
The only humans we came across were a few shepherds who looked like they were from the 17th century themselves. We tried catching their eye to ask how far the fort was, but we met with no success. Were they ‘empty’-eyed?
We decided to step on the gas and reach our destination and then run back home. Pronto.
Half a kilometer from the fort was a check point. Someone peered into the car, took Rs 50 (nearly US$ 1) for parking and warned us ominously to be back before sundown saying, “The main gates will close at 5 pm.”
Inside the Bhangarh Fort
The parking was adjacent to the imposing fort gates. We counted the number of visitor vehicles — only five! Additionally, an ambulance was parked at the gate in all readiness. We were dismayed but none of us voiced it. What had we got ourselves into! We silently decided that this was going to be a quick tour.
Only a small walk-in door in one of the three huge gates remains open. Just as one enters there is a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman (the monkey god). People silently pray for a safe return as they walk in. The temple is well maintained and a priest is in attendance. The other temples deep inside the fort area are not maintained as places of worship. They are just part of the haunted spooksville repertoire.
The path to the fort is all cobbled but surprisingly neat. There are ruins of ancient structures on either side which is quite disconcerting. We explored them, picturing regular families living here. The place was crawling with insects. We made a hasty exit.
There are many more temples in the sprawling grounds. Amazingly the whole area was very clean. In the distance we could see the palace in ruins. The backdrop of the cloud-covered Aravalis added to the sinister scene.
We could see dried out streams running down the Aravalis. Although college groups come here for picnics, I cannot imagine people wanting to swallow a morsel of food in these environs. The air is thick with spookiness. In fact, even as I type this, I have peered over my shoulder three times to check if someone is watching me write this report!
We did pose for a few photos, but the feeling that someone is right behind you, never leaves you. (And at this juncture we realised we had left our ‘shield’– the ice hammer — in the car!)
The fact that once upon a time, this was beautiful fort is evident from the architecture of the Gopinath temple, standing majestically in one corner of the ground.
I would hate to use the word ‘abandoned’ but it is a fact that these temples are not functional. All the temples are empty and there are no idols (barring this Shivlinga), no priests, no prayers happening here. You can stand about and worship of you like. Though I seriously wonder if anyone would have the nerve to. These lonely structures just stand; muted forever by the havoc created by the curse all those hundreds of years ago.
The palace is in complete ruins and one wants to just hurry through it. The view from the top, though, is beautiful. No guides were available to take us around but we had heard stories of people who had defied the authorities and stayed on after sun down. They were either never heard of again or were found to have lost their senses. The most bizarre anecdote is about a group that stayed on inside the fort after sundown. They claim to have seen a young boy sitting in a room which had no door for entry. Villagers claim that they hear sounds of people screaming in the night. We do not know if there is any truth in this but the authorities have banned anyone within 2 kms of the fort area during the night.
Well, we were not going to defy government orders. We were back at the gate well before 5 pm, thanking the monkey God profusely for delivering us back to safety. We did not look back even once as we sped away on the broken road and only opened the packet of chips once we were on the highway back to Jaipur. The traffic on the highway never looked so welcoming.
Now that I’m sitting safely in my room, I must confess it’s a ‘must visit’ place for someone who is fascinated by the paranormal — though when I look at the photos I still get the creepy crawlies.
Also read: The forts and tombs of Mughal royalty