Priya Saxena dares anyone to step into 16th century Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan, after sundown. At what's listed on Wiki as 'one of the most haunted places in the world', strange sounds and flashing lights greet visitors after sunset
THERE's something perversely addictive about stepping into forbidden territory. How else would an industry of horror films subsist on the macabre?
Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan
A trip to the 16th century Bhangarh fort in Ajabgarh (don't miss the irony in the name; ajab means 'strange') is a little bit like that. Listed as 'one of the most haunted places in the world' by Wikipedia, Bhangarh's story is the stuff of horror films. The story goes like this: whoever stays in the ruined fort after dark, never returns. Not wanting to take any chances, I stayed out and got my fill of the details from braver souls who ventured inside.
"I have visited Bhangarh four times, always with friends. The second and third time, there wasn't any guard outside, and we got an easy entry. While standing next to the pond near the main fort, we heard someone sneeze. It was scary as hell, because there was no one inside the fort apart from us," recounts 22 year-old Rahul Goyal, a configuration specialist with Hewitt Associates.
His story is hard to dismiss when you take a look at the fort after sunset. Surrounded by the beautiful Aravallis, it stands tall and tranquil during the day, but takes on a ghostly appearance after dusk. Known for its ruins, Bhangarh lies halfway between Jaipur and Alwar district, with miles of ruins of what was once a
flourishing kingdom. The fort can be approached through three pathways from Ajabgarh, Rajgarh and Dausa, and makes for a slightly unnerving trip. Mile upon mile of desolate fields, abandoned havelis, huts, wells, temples and withered trees only corroborate the eerie stories.
It's haunted, we swear!
Thirty five-year-old Rajesh, a tea stall owner who hails from the area, swears by the ghostly stories doing the rounds. "I have never had the courage to enter the fort late at night, but every year, I hear of some braveheart who dared to venture inside and was later found unconscious."
"The fort is possessed and the rumours are true," swears Satyanarayan, a worker at the fort, which is, incidentally, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). "At night, the presence of spirits is often felt here. Sometime ago, two men were found dead near the kund (pond) that lies inside the fort," he says.
His friend Nalinakshu Singh Tanwar says, "While leaving in a car on our third visit, we saw a flash behind us. At first we thought it might be a guard, but there was no one. Petrified, we zoomed off but the light
followed us for about one-and-a-half kilometers. It's strange because there is not even a light bulb inside the fort or anywhere around. Another time, we saw fresh blood near the Shiv temple."
It gets shady
We wonder if that is why a signboard put up by the ASI, reading, "Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited," was modified due to "controversial reasons" a few months ago.
The same ASI officials have not explored the tehkhana (basement) of the fort. Some say if you walk down the stairs, you never come back. "It's said that the palace comes alive at night. There is supposed to be activity in the markets, dance halls (known as randiyon ka mahal), and alleys," recounts Akash Deep Chauhan, a visitor to Bhangarh.
But ASI officials dismiss all this as hearsay and superstition. "It is a tribal village and people are illiterate. Any uninhabited place can spook you at night. People are advised not to
venture out at night since there may be wild animals around," says Jamal Hassan, superintending officer, ASI, Jaipur circle.
Noted, sir. If you intend on visiting Bhangarh after dark, we'll be waiting to hear what happened.
It's said that during the 16th century, Madho Singh of Amber built his capital here with the sanction of Baba Balanath, who had made a dire prediction: "The moment the shadow of your palace touches me, you are undone. The city shall be no more!" In ignorance, Ajab Singh, one of the dynasty's later descendants, raised the palace to such a height that the shadow touched the Baba's seat. Hence, the bad energy around the place. Another story is about the princess of Bhangarh, Ratnavati. Matchless in all of Rajasthan, she started receiving marriage proposals when she was just 18. In the same region lived a wicked sorcerer, Singhia Sevra, who eyed her. Singhia's chhatri (supposed to be a watch tower) can be seen on top of the hill next to the fort. One day, Singhia saw the princess' maid in the market buying scented oil for her. He used his black magic and cast a spell on the oil to hypnotise Ratnavati. But the sorcerer's plan was foiled when the princess threw it away and it touched a stone instead. The power of the potion sent the stone rolling towards the tantrik, and he was crushed. While dying, Singhia cursed the palace and all who dwelt in it with death and no rebirth in their destinies.