Located around 220 kms from Delhi is a place that is often named as one of the most haunted places in India. A place that has so many spooky stories around it that it arouses one’s interest immediately. This is the city of Bhangarh, once glorious now feared. A fort standing in ruins, in desperate need of restoration, stones that were once put together to form walls now crumbling down, remains of what were once shops and houses, surrounded by mountains on 3 sides, huge trees in the campus, a temple at the main gate, a notice outside the main gate by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that reads,
“Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited. Legal action would be taken against anybody who does not follow these instructions”
A place whose only inhabitants now are only an army of Monkeys and Langoors.
In ancient times, Unlike other forts in India, it was not merely a king’s residence in there. It was, as a matter of fact, an entire town behind those grand walls which now stand shattered. A main market area, lined with ruins of shops from old times, houses and residences of other common and important people and at the far corner the king’s palace built at some height and overlooking the entire town.
The town of Bhangarh was established in 1573 by King Bhagwant Das who had 2 sons. Elder one was Man Singh, the famous General of Mughal Emperor Akbar and the second one was Madho Singh. Bhagwant Das laid foundation of Bhangarh as the residence of his second son, Madho Singh who lived and ruled here his entire life. Madho Singh named the city after his grandfather Man Singh who was also known as Bhan Singh and that’s where ‘Bhangarh’ comes from. He was succeeded on the throne by his son Chhatr Singh who died in 1630. Who ruled Bhangarh after Chhatr Singh is not known however the prosperity, wealth and power of the town was lost with death of Chhatr Singh and Bhangarh slowly declined. However though the fort remained as it still had support from the mighty Mughals. After death of Aurangzeb, mughal empire too weakened and it was around this time that Jai Singh II of Jaipur attacked and attached Bhangarh to his state by Force in 1720. The population of Bhangarh started to diminish under Jai Singh’s rule. Then came the great famine of 1783, also known as the Chalisa, which left the entire town uninhabited and it has remained so ever since.
Now what really happened here, no one knows for certain. There is very little information about this place in history books and almost next to no information about the kings who ruled here. The little significance that this place holds in history is because of Man Singh, general of Emperor Akbar. If one is to believe historians, it was because of Jai Singh II’s repeated attacks that forced the people to escape. Other historians believe that it was the famine of 1783 that forced people to leave here in search of food elsewhere and they just never returned.
It is also believed by some historians that Bhangarh was inhabited for centuries before it was built into a royal city in 1573. It is said that it was a wealthy town where over 10,000 residents lived in prosperity. Even today it can not be denied that this small town once had grand palaces, well maintained gardens, and beautiful temples.
Whatever happened here in the hills, why this town was deserted is both fascinating and frustrating because of the lack of any robust information. Whatever information is available are mere speculations and beliefs.
But if one is to believe the local myths and legends, the story is both interesting and spooky.
It is said that before the fort at Bhangarh was built, a monk or Guru by the name of Balu Nath used to live here alone. He was a sanyasi who had given up all worldly belongings and went to forest to be away from people, common man’s desires and dedicate his life to god. He was against the idea of building a town because that would mean a lot of people around , a great amount of disturbance in his daily prayers and will beat the very purpose of him living there to be away from people. However though, after much persuasion by King Bhagwant Das he agreed on one condition that the shadow of the king’s palace should never touch Balu Nath or his residence or the city will perish. Bhagwant Das agreed to the condition and so began the construction of Bhangarh Fort. Interesting fact around this is that King’s palace only consisted of 3 or 4 floors initially, in order to honor Balu Nath’s Condition that the shadow should never reach his residence.
Years passed and the city prospered. Slowly over the time, Balu Nath’s warning was forgotten and one of the later kings, Ajab Singh, re-built the palace to a new height by adding 3 more floors to the existing 4. This proved fatal as it caused the palace’s shadow to reach the place where Balu Nath lived. Hence what was once a warning turned into a curse and the city doomed. How it happened is something no one can tell. Whether everyone left, or died because of the curse remains a mystery.
Another version of this story is that Balu Nath did not literally mean what he said that the shadow of the palace should never touch him. He merely used it as a metaphor to warn king that he should be left alone and not bothered by people of the town. As time passed, population of Bhangarh grow and Balu Nath’s warning was forgotten. When his sanyasi life started to get disturbed by people around, Balu Nath cursed the city to perish.
Interesting thing about this tale is that Balu Nath seems to be an immortal. He laid his condition before the city was built, post which it was ruled by several kings which means that it must have been a long time but Balu Nath somehow managed to survive all those years. He lived and lived until he saw the city doom but what happened to him after the town was deserted is another mystery. Some people believe that his samadhi is still located within the fort from where he rises every night to haunt the palace.
Second legend is even more interesting, a story of one sided love that turned into obsession, the tale of Rani Ratnavati whose beauty, it is said, was unmatchable in whole of Rajasthan. While some believe that she was a princess of Bhangarh, it is also said that she was in fact herself the queen, married to the King.
When the princess turned 18, she started getting marriage proposals from princes of other states. Being a very beautiful woman, she had numerous admirers within Bhangarh as well and one such admirer was Singhia, a tantrik. He was desperately in love with the princess and desired for her even though he knew that she was way out of his league. People like him weren’t even allowed to see the princess, let alone the thought of marrying her.
It is said that once the princess along with her maids and friends went visiting the market to buy some scented oils. Singhia spotted her at a shop and he got an idea by which he could meet the princess. He used his black magic and put a love spell on the oil which would hypnotize the princess by her merely touching the oil, and she would surrender herself. The princess foiled this plan though. She had seen the tantrik enchanting the oil, and she therefore threw it away, whereupon the flagon rolled over a stone. As soon as the oil touched the stone, it started rolling towards the wicked tantrik and crushed him. While dying, Singhia cursed the palace with the death of all who dwelt in it, without any rebirth in their destinies.
There is another version of this story as well. Per the second version, Singhia gave the scented oil to one of the maids to pass on to the princess. That maid bought the oil to the palace and handed it over to Ratnavati. But what Singhia didn’t know that the princess herself was very well verse with the cult and she knew the tantra and spells herself. As soon as she touched the bottle, she knew what Singhia did. She had him captured and brought to the palace as a prisoner where she threw the oil on Singhia. As soon as the cursed oil touched Singhia, the person who himself cursed it, he died a very painful death and it was in his last few moments that he cursed Bhangarh.
The very next year, Bhangarh was attacked by the neighboring kingdom of Ajabgarh. There was a fierce battle which Bhangarh lost and Rani Ratnavati herself died in the battle. The town has been uninhabited ever since.
Another version is that when Ratnavati threw the oil away and as the oil struck the ground it turned into a boulder, which crushed Singhia. Dying, the magician cursed the palace with the death of all who dwelt in it.
Some even say that the princess Ratnavati has taken birth somewhere else and that the fort and the empire of Bhangarh is waiting for her return to put an end to the curse.
These are stories from the past but this isn’t where it all ends. There have been recent claims of people getting hurt and even dying because of the ghosts at Bhangarh. A student by the name of Tarun Aakash wrote about how he along with two friends met with an accident after a night spent in Bhangarh. The odd thing, he says, was that they were the only people to have been hurt in a bus of more than 50 people, even though they were sitting 5-6 rows apart.
Bhoot, chudail, djinns – she’s witnessed them all over the last three decades, says a wizened Rama Devi, who has been running a water stall outside the monument premises ever since she got married. “They are all there. But we are not scared. We have our temples,” she says
Few years ago, a man fell into the step-well located within the premises of Bhangarh and hurt his head. While he was being rushed to the hospital, the car crashed and the two others died. An unfortunate accident blamed entirely on ghosts. So much so, that the locals have a joke based entirely on logical reasoning. “Bhangarh mein har saal kuchh log marte hain. Unke bhoot toh yahin par rukenge na!” they laugh.
As it happens with every superstitious story, some, specially the locals around believe it is true, while others consider it merely as a made up tale. If we look at all the facts rationally, these legends can easily be waived off. While some try to prove the ghost story right, others want to debunk it by visiting the fort after the dusk.
Every story related to Bhangarh is from two prospectives. One is of the locals who live around here and the second point of view of the tourists who come here because of the interesting tales floating around on the web. One visit and you can easily tell that this place is no more than ruins and fallen walls now. Even though the fact cant not be denied that once in its prime, it was a beautiful fort, a majestic example of medieval architecture. But all that is now gone. Though restoration work is now in full swing, due to lack of care in past years, the beauty of this place has long faded. If a person is interested in old forts and palaces than there are other places in Rajasthan itself that are 100 times better than this. There is nothing to learn about ancient architecture at Bhangarh. Whatever was there has long collapsed and what now stands is work of ASI restoration department, not from several hundred years ago. There is absolutely nothing to see here except for a couple of temples but if you want to visit ancient temples, there are options way better than this.
Agreed that the place is located between the majestic hills of Aravali but again if it is hills that interest you then why come here? Why not travel towards Himalayas? Why not visit the several other beautiful hill stations located in Uttaranchal, Himachal and Kashmir? This place is still located in Rajasthan which means that it heats up like an oven for at least 8 months of the year. There is no reason to come here if you want to go up in the hills and beat the heat, or even if you want to view the natural beauty of hill stations. There is none of that here.
Driving to Bhangarh is a pain in all the wrong places. This place is located between Delhi and Jaipur or Agra and Jaipur, close to Alwar. If you are coming from Delhi, every single kilometer after you have crossed Alwar will make your journey a joy ride. The roads are so bad that it feels they were custom made to test your stomach, your butt and your vehicle’s suspensions. Story remains the same if you are traveling from Agra or Jaipur’ side. There are no signboards around and you will have to stop and ask the locals for directions every few kilometers. If a comfortable vacation is on your mind, Bhangarh is the last place you would want to visit.
Considering all the fuss about Bhangarh, one would think that accommodation would be easily available here. Wrong again. The nearest hotels are located 60 kilometers away, at the entry gates of Sariska Tiger reserve and charges of those 3 luxury hotels are enough to burn a hole in a middle class person’s wallet. There are a few resorts available too around 20 -25 kms from Bhangarh but trust me, charges of those resorts will give anyone a heart attack. If you are looking for an average priced hotel to spend the night in, you will either need to go back to Alwar or to Jaipur.
If you are planning a trip to Bhangarh, please take a look at the article below for information on where you can hope to find accommodation around Bhangarh.
So despite all these facts, what is it that makes thousands of people travel to Bhangarh every year? One visit here and it doesn’t take a genius to realize the fact that it is only the spooky stories about this place that entice people. That big question of whether its true or not is what draws people here. Everyone wants to visit the haunted place and experience something supernatural which of course never happens because there are no ghosts here. Some even plan a visit to the fort at night by either jumping a wall or maybe bribing the watchman to allow them to stay a little late after sunset but that too is also tough and i will tell you why.
As i mentioned above, there is no hotel around this place. So if you are to visit Bhangarh, you will either have to stay at Alwar or maybe check into one of the luxury hotels (even those are quite far away) and then come to Bhangarh. Roads are bad and there are no signboards which makes it highly probable that you may take a wrong turn somewhere and end up in some remote village. This leads people to leave here before it gets dark so that they can reach back to their hotel. Even though there is a signboard at the main entrance that prohibits people from entering Bhangarh while the sun in not in the sky, it is not really that difficult to get in at night. While the wall near the main gate has been restored, it is still shattered on the other 3 sides. As a matter of fact there is no wall at all at some places. All you need to do is walk around a little bit, do some trekking and voila, you are in Bhangarh fort. But you cant do that because you are putting up at a hotel far away from the fort. It is impossible to find an accommodation at any of the nearby villages.
One is led to believe that ASI put up the notification board at Bhangarh because its haunted. This is again a completely made up tale by the locals. There is not even one historical monument in India that allows entry at night. Its restricted everywhere. The only difference is that the other sites are well guarded, are intact behind high walls and the entry is only from the main gate which is not the case at Bhangarh. The main gate is just for name sake. You can jump a wall and get in from any of the other 3 sides which is why the signboard has been put up to warn people from entering here at night.
Another reason why ASI warns people from entering here after sunset is because of wild animals. Bhangarh is located at the edge of Sariska tiger reserve which is home to many wild animals including 9 tigers, as per the count by Sariska authorities in 2013. It’s the wild animals that make the area dangerous. Its proximity to Sariska makes it a haunt for foxes, panthers and even tigers at night. It is not impossible that a wild animal may wander here at night and attack at someone who is prowling around alone.
And the last reason is the fear of people tripping and hurting themselves. This is a very old place that is now standing in ruins. The incidents of people getting hurt here at night and even dying is because the boulders are loose and people trip and fall. ASI guards have been patrolling the area at night for years but no incident has ever occurred with them.
If one is to be blamed for the downfall of Bhangarh then its the Chalisa, the great famine of 1783. Due to unusual El Nino events that started in 1780 in Indian Ocean , India was hit by two major droughts in the following years. Southern India, being closer to the ocean, was hit first and suffered the drought of 1782. The following year, Northern India was hit by a even much severe drought. This was later called as Chalisa, which literally means the fortieth, referring to the fact that 1783 was the year 1840 per emperor Vikramaditya’s lunar Calendar. The severity of this famine was so high that it actually almost depopulated half of the Northern India. It is said that almost 60% of the villages of uttar pradesh, Rajasthan and areas near Delhi were depopulated and millions of lives were lost. Add this drought to the fact that Bhangarh was located in Rajputana, modern day Rajasthan, where water in old times was as it is scarce and you will get the idea. This was the time when Bhangarh, a small city, near Delhi perished. Lots of people died and those who survived the famine left in search of food and water.
So why the scary stories? Why the air of mystery? The answer is simple, because this is the only thing that draws tourists here. If not for the imaginary ghosts, there is nothing that adds charm to Bhangarh. The myths were first created by the locals to attract tourism and then supported by people who managed to gain entry at night and wanted to show off, boast about their supernatural experiences. Whatever experience they gained was because of the noise of wind, dogs, Monkeys, Langoors and other wild animals at night and lose boulders.
Even if it was to be looked from a superstitious point of view, it is believed that animals sense the paranormal presence way before and more than humans. If Bhangarh is indeed so haunted, then how come the entire army of Monkeys and Langoors still stay and not scared off by the ghosts?
These were my thoughts about the place. Please feel free to comment and share your opinion on the matter. It would be great to know if anyone at all felt anything supernatural at Bhangarh.