I was on an assignment to cover a few remote regions of Rajasthan and the chance of travelling in my own style made me accept it gleefully. A drive through bumpy roads flanked by lush green wheat fields on both sides brought me to Bhangarh. The morning had been very foggy and cold, and I was in an open air gypsy. The warmth of the sun was a welcome change from the windy and cloudy weather. There are many rumours of ghost stories and scary encounters from Bhangarh, but during the day all I could see was a beautiful picnic spot.
Bhangarh lies approximately 85 kms from Jaipur and it takes around two hours to cover the distance. I had heard a lot about Bhangarh with recent fame of the nature of haunted activities of the place but nothing was to prepare me for the grandeur even before I stepped foot inside the ruined complex. Ramparts of the fort spread far and wide amidst the forests and huge temples stood on elevated platforms to give a grand feel.
Bhangarh lies in the Aravali Range and is believed to have been a Kachhwaha clan citadel before Amber, near Jaipur. The town was established in 1573 by King Bhagwant Das and the Fort Palace was made for his son Madho Singh, who was also a Diwan in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
I instantly began to think that while Bhangarh might be famous for its haunted and mysterious reasons, it looked very beautiful and seemed like a pleasant place perfect for a picnic. There were a lot of local tourists from nearby villages and I spotted quite a few DL number cars, maybe people have started visiting Bhangarh from Delhi as a weekend destination as is it only around 250 odd kms from Delhi.
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Leading to Bhangarh, there is a roofless stone colonnaded pathway that was once the market of the town (also called Johari bazaar). It is completely deserted and I could only wonder how bustling it may have been in its glory days. The entrance to the main fort is via a huge arched door and as soon as you enter, a Hanuman temple is visible on the right.
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Bhangarh appears to have been a big town once and more than 40,000 people are said to have once lived here. It exemplifies the hierarchy of traditional town planning and apart from the shops and residences of common people, even the fort complex is very well designed and temples occupy a prime space in different directions. The Fort is accessed through two huge towers on either side and has a winding path to walk up.
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The locals said the Royal Palace was once as big as 7 stories, although now only 4 floors remain. There are 4-5 temples in Bhangarh with fabulous carvings (the most impressive is Gopinath). There are monkeys everywhere in Bhangarh but don’t seem to disturb the tourists. I first decide to walk up the stairs to the first temple and clutch my camera bag closer when I see some monkeys eyeing me.
The Fort Palace was built into the mountainside so that its ruler could have a watch over the entire town. Although there are many beliefs and legends, the most popular and widely accepted one is : ‘Bhangarh town was deserted because of a tantric magician who was in love with the ruler’s daughter and cursed the city when his ploy to seduce her backfired. There is a sole cenotaph built on a hill that towers above Bhangarh that is said to be the evil magician’s chhatri. Before dying, he cursed the village and the entire village’s inhabitants left it in one night in 1783.’
Bhangarh therefore, has the tag of the most haunted places in India and the curse is believed to be working even today.
Local legend as narrated by the guide and the Panditji in the temple :
“Bhangarh was a rich town and Kingdom which was well known for being Ratnavati was the princess of Bhangarh and was very famous for her beauty. There was a tantrik magician by the name of Singhia, who was in love with her but knew that his match with the princess was impossible. But Singhia’s devilish mind hatched a plan to seduce the princess with his magical powers. He cast a spell of black magic on the oil that the maid was purchasing for the princess, so that upon touching it, the princess would fall in love with the magician.
However, the princess saw the oil was swirling when it was brought and she realised it was Singhia Tantrik who had done black magic on the oil. The princess was adept in the knowledge of black magic herself and poured the oil on to the ground. The oil when emptied on the ground turned into a rock and rolled towards the magician and crushed him to death near a big mountain. Before dying, the magician cursed Bhangarh and said that there will be no more rebirths. The curse started coming true and strange things started happening in Bhangarh after that, hence it was decided to leave the town in a single night and settle down elsewhere.”
Over a period of time the story has propagated itself and now the town is popularly called as ‘house of ghosts’ by the locals and there are stories of people who tried to stay there after sunset didn’t return alive. I couldn’t really believe this story, especially with the beautiful breeze that blew and a lovely view of the landscape from the Bhangarh Fort. Bhangarh is entirely uninhabited and the nearest village is a small hamlet called Gola ka Bas. Due to the popularity of day tourists, there are a few cafés and restaurants that are in Gola ka Bas and a swanky new multi storey hotel is also coming up.
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What to see in Bhangarh?
Bhangarh is essentially a classic example of ruins which signify a well planned city, a short walk around town brings the visitor to these delights : There are five gates to enter Bhangarh fort – Delhi Gate, Ajmeri gate, Lahori Gate, Phoolwari gate and Hanuman gate. Among the ruins, there are a few dilapidated Havelis and Baoris too, there is still a functional Baori on the extreme left side of the Fort complex. The Royal Palace has many rooms and selfie taking tourists; a few parts of the Palace are said to consist of the Nachne wali ki haveli (A dancers’ house where performances were held).
As one enters the ascending pathway to the Royal Palace, there are thick plantations of Kewra (a plant which gives out a sweet smell) towards the left side of the path that leads to a mosque. Among the temples – Hanuman Temple, Gopinath temple, Somesvara temple, Keshav Rai Temple, Mangla Devi Temple can be visited. Some of the temples have been restored, I especially liked the carvings in Gopinath Temple.
Facts : There was no entry fees collected from me. A signboard by ASI outside Bhangarh warns visitors : ‘Entering the borders of Bhangarh after sunset is strictly prohibited.’ The theory of ghosts received another fillip because the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) doesn’t have an office here and the nearest (ASI) office is around 1 km away.
Timings : 9 am to 5 pm
Some say that the sole structure on the hill above Bhangarh is the evil magician Singhia’s cenotaph, while others believe that it is a simple watch tower. In almost no written history that exists on Bhangarh, we may never know. The ‘haunted’ tag brings many tourists to this otherwise sleepy landscape, the villagers make hay, while the sun shines.
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