Living in the 21st century, it's hard to imagine the world hundreds of years ago. The fact that buildings erected 500 or more years ago still stand today in some parts of the world is absolutely mind boggling. In a time where we fill our days by scrolling, or swiping, past one page to the next on our phones, one could be forgiven for having a difficult time conceptualizing days that far past. Fortunately for those out there unable to merely imagine, there are very well preserved sites the world over open to tourists. Ancient cities that have been kept remarkably intact despite the ruins they have become over the centuries.
One such site in India is ranked among the top ten most haunted places in the country. The Hindu reports that Bhangarh Fort was built by Raja Bhagwant Singh, ruler of Amber. He had the village erected in 1573 for his second and youngest son, Madho Singh. Madho's older brother, Man Singh, was celebrated as Akbar's general. Wikipedia gives its location at the border of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. It's situated at the foot of the hills on sloping terrain. On the lower slope of terrain, the king's palace can still be found exceptionally preserved.
Bhangarh Fort was built in the Rajasthan state of India. The closest village is Gola ka Baas, and Delhi is only 235 kilometers away (146 miles). The path leading to the entrance gate of the ancient city is long, and partially unpaved. The last 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of the road has not been touched by asphalt.
There are two famous legends associated with what many consider to be the most haunted place in all of India. The Hindu published the best retelling of these tales. With stories of a beautiful princess, black magic, curses, and an angered sorcerer, the fort's legends do not disappoint.
When Madho Singh passed away, he was succeeded by his son, Chatr Singh. He fathered the timeless beauty that was the princess Ratnavati and her older stepbrother, Ajab Singh, who would go on to build the fort of Ajabgarh. While Ajab was known much more for being uneven of temper, his stepsister was just the opposite. Her temperament was preferable to his as she was kinder and sweeter. This made her quite popular among the bachelors of the day. Far and wide, stories of her beauty spread like a viral tweet. This led to many marriage proposals for the young, enchanting princess.
A tantrik, well versed in the art of black magic, fell hopelessly in love with her. Knowing that he didn't stand a chance in Hell with her, he concocted a plan to win her devotion rather than earn it. The holy man saw her maids in the market buying perfume for her one day. He cast a spell on the bottle that would make Ratnavati fall totally and completely in love with him. Ratnavati learned of the spell and threw the bottle of perfume down, smashing it. When this happened, the bottle is said to have transformed into a large boulder that crushed that tantrik to death. With his dying breaths, he laid a curse on the princess, her family, and the entire village. Some believe that curse was fulfilled just a year later.
A battle between the forces of the Bhangarh and the Ajabgarh led to the death of Princess Ratnavati and most of the fort's troops. While many may believe the curse to have been real, the fact remains that Ajab was known for being a temperamental ruler. It's not hard at all to believe that he would incur some wrath.
As construction began on the fort, Raja Bhagwant Singh quickly discovered he was not the first to build in the area. A sadhu named Guru Balu Nath was already living on top of the hill, overlooking what would eventually be the Bhangarh Fort. The sadhu had one condition for the fort's construction. No building within the village should ever cast a shadow on his house. This condition was respected and honored by all until Ajab Singh took power and decided to erect columns that cast a shadow directly on the Guru's home. The curse he is said to have laid on the city in his anger many believe led to the destruction and desolation of the now infamous fort. Many of the roofs within those walls have long crumbled away. Even today, any who try to build a roof within the fort's vicinity have it collapse soon after it's finished.
While legends would have you believe that it was the curse of an angry sadhu that brought about the collapse of Bhangarh Fort, the reality is not so in line with the storybook notion. In truth, the population had already begun to dwindle when Ajabgarh was built. After the death of Chatr Singh, the decline continued, especially after the battle that killed Princess Ratnavati. In 1720, Man Singh's grandson, Raja Jai Singh, attached his estate to the fort. What villagers remained were forced out in 1783 due to famine.
According to Holdify, the city was modeled after the medieval city of Shahjahanabad. Four massive wooden gates are situated in all directions. Inside the fort's precincts, an ornately carved miniature waterfall was added to aid in the flow of air throughout the village. Travel with Lakshmi, found on Lakshmisharath.com, describes the beautiful, ancient temples that prominently stand among the ruins. Some are dedicated to Hanuman, Ganesh, ManglaDevi, Gopinath, and Keshav, among the many others. At the very end of the city stands the grand palace of the king in astounding condition. Past the expanse of ruins stands a very old banyan tree. In fact, it's thought to be more than 300 years old.
Throughout the village are crumbled havelis, or mansions. Some of these luxurious homes belonged to the dancing girls, known as the Nachni Ki Haveli. These women lived in style as they were the entertainers of the city.
The locals in the area will tell you that the Shiva temple is the only place one can feel safe from the wandering spirits of the fort at night. Paranormal activity is said to be so rampant inside those walls after dark that no one is allowed beyond the gate after the sun goes down. Oyorooms.com states in their article on the haunted city that the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) even had a sign placed at the borders of Bhangarh. The sign strictly prohibits anyone from entering the town's borders after dark. Guards posted at the site also make sure that tourists leave when they're expected to.
Walking through the ancient fort, one can marvel at the architectural wonder that is the fortifications and ramparts securing the village still to this day. As much of the city continues to crumble, the walls stand impenetrable even after hundreds of years. It's easy to get caught up in the history, the legends, and the ancient beauty touring the location. So easy, in fact, that you may even forget what you run the chance of experiencing, especially if you stay too late in the evening. Some stories I managed to find online illustrate the eerie ambience felt once the sun begins to drift lower in the sky.
Even during the day, tourists feel as though they're being watched around every corner of the worn, old streets. Some speak of a feeling of dread that can be felt at any time of the day. The feeling only grows as the sun sinks lower and lower in the sky. The Orissa Post reports stories of ghostly activity spanning back years. The locals refer to the location as "bhoot bangla," or haunted house. Strange noises are reported to come from inside the walls at night. Not a single local is willing to investigate the eerie sounds.
Tourist reports have told of ghostly apparitions as well as music and dancing. It would appear that even still the spirits of Bhangarh Fort are partying like it's 1699. An early tour is recommended to ensure you won't meet with the darkness inside the city. Those that enter the gates after dark are said to never return. It's because of this, the ghost stories, and the odd sounds that you are instructed to leave before evening's last light upon entrance.
One story tells of a group of boys that decided to brave an overnight stay at the fort. They went prepared, with their lighting equipment and everything else they would need for a creepy camping trip. In the middle of the fort, one of the boys found a steep well when he fell inside. His two friends were able to immediately rescue him and get him back to their car. On their way to the hospital, the car was crushed in an unfortunate accident. All three boys died on impact.
A writer for Travelpraise.com took a trip with some friends to the old village. Their original intention had been to drive out, walk through, and head home. When they arrived at 6:00 that evening, it began pouring rain on top of them. The conditions were too dangerous to drive even a short distance, so the boys begged the guard to stay the night as the rain was not going to let any time soon. Even in this situation, it took some convincing before the guard finally agreed to let them stay. In a temple just outside the village's gates, there was a small room upstairs. They were allowed to stay in that room on condition. They were not to leave the room for any reason whatsoever.
Worn out from their long drive, they didn't think that was going to be a hard condition to honor. They only wanted to eat something and get some sleep before the drive back the following morning. The friendly guard brought some food for them all to share and he regaled the group with the fort's legends and ghost stories. It seemed at first that their long day had given way to a disastrous end, but it was turning around already. For hours, they talked to the guard and among themselves before finally going to sleep at around 1:00 in the morning. Nothing strange had happened in all that time. No music, no strange noises, no ghostly apparitions.
At some point, the author of this article is awakened from his sleep by a terrible thirst. He immediately began looking around the small room for a bottle of water, but found nothing to drink. Glancing out the window, a bottle of water caught his eye, luring him out of the room and into the darkness. As he was about to grab the bottle, he was stopped in his tracks by a voice. He quickly recognized it. It was the voice of his grandmother. Very slowly, she repeated his name like a chant.
Abandoning the water and his notion of thirst, the writer ran back to the small room he was sharing with his friends. They awoke to the sounds of his screams as he bounded through the door in terror. He told them what had just transpired outside. The group did not sleep the rest of the night, choosing to stay awake, chanting Hanuman Chalisa until the first morning light. The guard was angry to learn that he had left the room that night. The group left Bhangarh Fort, never to return.
Travel with Lakshmi described an experience had by a tourist. It wasn't even quite dark yet. The group still had some time to get out of the city before darkness descended upon it. Even still, as the sun began to set, they felt the urge to leave right away. When night fell, it fell fast, with the sun quickly disappearing behind the hills and the stars speckling the expansive sky. The group still hadn't made it to the exit.
Walking down a narrow staircase, they felt something they described as movement. One of the group then started screaming hysterically and acting very strangely. As his friends shook him, he rambled all sorts of strange things. In the midst of his freak-out, the man broke away from his friends and ran from the palace towards the Shiv Mandir before collapsing to the ground. When he rose to his feet, he was in utter confusion. How did he get there? What had happened? He didn't remember the episode at all.
This very same tourist that recalled his friend's episode at the fort recalled another occasion in which he visited the ruins with friends. A co-worker touring the site with him suddenly burst into tears before collapsing by a temple. When the group went to help the woman up, she was clearly dazed.
While the legends of Bhangarh Fort's curses are clearly fictional, the stories of its haunting are up for debate among many. The locals especially believe in the lore of the ancient ghost town. Many that have visited have come back with no more than some lovely pictures and memories with those closest to them. With no one allowed beyond the gate after sundown, there isn't much proof of any activity.
So it's really up to you, now isn't it? Is Bhangarh Fort really haunted? Or are the stories and the sign instructing visitors to leave before dark just a clever ploy to bring in tourism? Like any other abandoned site, brave souls have been known to sneak in, leaving evidence of their stay behind. Their stories never seem to be told, likely because they are not supposed to be there to start with. The only way to really know for sure is to get lost within the city's walls late enough in the evening.