TravelHer: Bhangarh Fort’s Beauty Still Haunts Me
Our trip was planned to be harmless and fun, it had to be. It was supposed to be a family trip with my siblings and their families which included kids. We had been planning it for the last two months. Sariska Tiger Reserve’s jungle safari was a surety, nothing else was planned and we thought we will take one day at a time. On the second day at the break of dawn, my siblings and their kids went for an early morning jungle safari and spotted a tiger too! (Yes, Sariska has tigers, I had not gone because I was told Sariska does not have any tigers, hard luck. I promised myself I will go for the safari the next day). Anyway, now with the main attraction done, we had time on our hands. So, I suggested let’s discover Bhangarh Fort, one of the most haunted places in India. Bhangarh was located 48 kms from our resort near Sariska. Everybody agreed, especially the kids, who thought the ghosts who haunt the fort will put up an entertainment show, much like the Ramsay Brothers kind. So, after an early breakfast, we headed for Bhangarh.
Bhangarh is a village situated in Rajgarh Alwar, Rajasthan. What I love about Rajasthan is that it is dotted with old ruins. On our way to Bhangarh we saw a beautiful fort and many other small and large monuments, we did not stop, as we were in a hurry for our rendezvous with the supernatural. But I later came to know that we had crossed the Ajabgarh fort. Which is deeply related to the history of Bhangarh.
What struck me while driving towards Bhangarh was the sparse habitation, a village that was hardly populated, abandoned or empty houses and havelis. And as we approached Bhangarh there were hardly any eateries as well, so our lunch for the day had to wait as we did not see any roadside dhabas too.
Some people have even reported that they saw ghostly shadows, strange lights, and unusual sounds of music and dance have also been reported. And of people disappearing too!
We reached Bhangarh after an hour and a half long drive mostly due to the bad road condition. From the entry point, the fort looked intact and maintained. You need to buy tickets which was a minimal Rs 20.
At the gate we see a signboard put up by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), a Government of India organisation, which had these instructions on it. The board is written in Hindi but this is what it said: “Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited. And legal action will be taken against anybody who does not follow these instructions.” Some other rules are there according to which no one is allowed to graze their animals in the village after sunset.
So, one wonders why is this board is put up? Why it is illegal to enter Bhangarh Fort between sunset and sunrise? Is it really haunted? According to locals, spirits enter the place after sunset and thus nobody is allowed to enter the borders of fort during this time. Hmm…we were definitely ready for this adventure.
We take a water break before climbing up the fort; the sun was really hot at that time of the day. But the younger lot had no patience; they wanted to start exploring as soon as possible and meet a ghost or two in the process.
The walk up to the fort was fascinating. The way was lined by the ruins of jauhri bazaars (jeweller shops) and Nachni ki Haveli (houses of dancing girls). If there are no tourists around it can look straight out of a Bollywood horror flick. You will definitely stop a number of times for a photo-op as the ruins are beautiful. Wondering along the way, who abandons such a beautiful place?
You will come across some magnificent old banyan trees. Under which we found the langurs (also called Gray langur or Semnopithecus) and the Rhesus macaques, the red-faced monkeys, who were fighting it out to make the shelter their home. You’ll find the abundant shade of the trees most welcome from the fiery sun.
What struck me while driving towards Bhangarh was the sparse habitation, a village which was hardly populated, abandoned or empty houses and havelis.
Just below the fort you will find the Someshwara temple with the beautiful stepwell, I suggest you do not miss it.
The gateway to the fort was very impressive and as we trekked the steep climb on both sides I could see some broken walls and columns. Soon we reached the gate we saw that the fort was built in three-storeys, though now from up close we could make out that the fort was in ruins.
As we climbed further we found the walls inside the fort are intact. But be ready for the steep steps which were higher than our normal staircase. We climbed the first floor, then the second and then the highest point. The ruins look magnificent from here and not at all haunted. Two inner fortifications across the valley protect the palace. The ramparts of the fort have five gates that separate it from the town. Overall it’s a beautiful piece of architecture.
It was a bright sunny day with tourists exploring every nook and corner, definitely not the time for any spirits to make an appearance. We felt a bit disappointed too by now!
History of the place
Raja Bhagwant Singh, the Kachwaha ruler of Amber, built the Bhangarh fort for his younger son Madho Singh in 1573 AD. If you know your history you will surly remember Emperor Akbar’s general the famous Man Singh. Well Raja Madho Singh was the younger brother of Man Singh and was succeeded by his son Chatr Singh. Chatr Singh had a son named Ajab Singh who built the Ajabgarh Fort.
After the real history, now for the folklore…
The Bhangarh Fort was built after getting approval from an ascetic called Guru Balu Nath who meditated at this place. But the ascetic had one specific demand; according to folklore, he made the king swear that the fort’s shadows should not touch his meditation area no matter what. His demand was met by all rulers except by Ajab Singh, as the columns he added created the shadows that touched the meditation spot, the ascetic let out a curse that the village will remain roofless. It is said that even if a roof is built today, it for some reason collapses soon after.
The second and more intriguing story is that of the Princess of Bhangarh and a tantric. It is said that Princess Ratnavati, who was the daughter of Chatr Singh was very beautiful, she was much younger and much loved by everyone than her stepbrother Ajab Singh. There was a tantric named Singhia, who fell in love with Princess Ratnavati. He tried to use magic to win over her. One day, the tantric followed her to the marketplace and offered her a love potion; however she refused it, throwing it onto a large boulder that consequently rolled over the tantric and crushed him to death. Before the tantric died, he cursed the residents of the fort to die and the village dwellers to remain roofless forever.
The way to the fort was lined by the ruins of the jauhri bazaars (jeweller shops) and Nachni ki Haveli (houses of dancing girls). If there are no tourists around it can look straight out of a Bollywood horror flick.
It is said that a year later, there was a battle between Bhangarh and Ajabgarh rulers, in which Ratnavati died and so did most of the army.
It is believed that it was this curse that led to the destruction of Bhangarh. The village or fort was forever condemned and so consequently inhabited by ghosts as no one could be reborn here.
However, a little research, later on, told me what seems to be the real story. Soon after Chatr Singh died the population of the area shifted towards Ajab Singh’s new fort. Further, a famine in 1783 forced the remaining villagers to look for new and habitable places to settle. The last time that Bhangarh is mentioned is when finally the grandson of Man Singh, Raja Jai Singh, in 1720, attached Bhangarh to his estate.
What people still believe about Bhangarh
But people love to claim that Bhangarh is haunted. They say they have heard ghosts scream, voices of women crying, sounds of bangles in the rooms, and eerie smells after dusk. Some have even reported that they saw ghostly shadows, strange lights, and unusual sounds of music and dance have also been reported. And of people disappearing too!
But unfortunately, we did not see or feel anything. So, I can’t say much about the haunted status of the fort.
However, you shouldn’t miss these…
The old buildings of Bhangarh are worth your time though. Explore the Gopinath, Shiv (Someshwar), Hanuman, Ganensh, Vishal Devta, Lavina Devi, and Keshav Rai temples. On the way, several havelis, a mosque, and a palace can be looked into too.
The second and more intriguing story is that of the Princess of Bhangarh and a tantric. It is said that Princess Ratnavati, who was the daughter of Chatr Singh was very beautiful, she was much younger and much loved by everyone than her stepbrother Ajab Singh.
The final word
After I came back to Bhopal from Sariska and Alwar, our driver who is a native of a village just four kilometers away from Bhangarh, when he came to know we had gone to Bhangarh said “Madamji suna aap Bhangarh gaye the.” (Madam I heard you had gone to Bhangarh) I said “Haan, suna tha ki bhutiya qila hai, lekin kuch dikha nahin aur sunai bhi nahin diya, pata nahin sach bhi hai ki nahin.” (Yes, we had heard that it was a haunted fort but we did not see or hear anything). He said, “Madamji bhutiya toh hai, hum apne bachpan se sunte aa rahe hain ki raat ko wahan jinnhon ka bazaar lagta hai.” (Madam, it is haunted; we have heard from our childhood that a marketplace of jinns starts every night). Okay, so at this point I don’t know what to believe, if you are a sucker for the paranormal I suggest you make this trip and discover for yourself.
The views expressed are the writer’s own.