24th December 2013
I do not believe in ghosts. But I do like ghost stories. As a child, I was brought up on a diet of spine-tingling ghost stories, and I remember feeling thrilled while listening to those, although they were meant to put us to sleep. After I grew up, I seldom got that kind of excitement when I read horror fiction or saw adult horror movies. I did get that feeling once again in Rajasthan – when I got to not only hear a ghost story but also visit the place where it supposedly took place!
Kuldhara is an abandoned village in Rajasthan not far from Jaisalmer. It is said to be haunted and entry to the village is permitted strictly in daylight only. We decided to visit it on our way to the sand dunes from Jaisalmer. As we sped through the Thar desert towards that village, our jeep driver Chotuu started narrating the myth of Kuldhara – events which supposedly unfolded hundreds of years back.
Legend has it that Kuldhara along with 83 other villages around it were inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins community. The Prime Minister of the ruling kingdom at that time took a fancy to a village belle who was from a different caste and demanded to be married to her by giving a 24 hour ultimatum. The village elders decided to flee the place rather than give their girl’s hand in marriage to a person of lower caste, so all the 84 villages were abandoned overnight. No one came back and with time, the village crumbled and turned into ruins. According to the myth, the original villagers only came back after they died and they haunt the place to this day.
Legends make for great stories and thus great tourist attractions. This ostensibly haunted place has been turned into a tourist spot with the Governement restoring some houses and a lone temple in the middle of the village. However, stories abounded that ghosts roam around the village in the night and that people who tried to stay there during the night were chased away due to strange paranormal activities.If I was hoping to bump into a few ghosts and experience the supernatural myself, I was disappointed. Notwithstanding the tourists milling around, the abandoned ruins do feel eerie. We walked around a bit soaking in the atmosphere, even climbing one of the terraces which served as a good vantage point. I felt a strange sense of foreboding while roaming around the ruins and that feeling did not subside until much later when we were far away from the ghost village.