We’ve been to spooky places before. From the eerie Museum of Toruture in Montepulciano to the spooky subterranean Catacombs in Paris. So while I was in Rajasthan scouting locations for a shoot, the chance to hop into a famous legend of Rajasthan Tourism – Kuldhara ghost town in India, I jumped at it.
Roughly 18 kms from Jaisalmer, we took a left off the Jaisalmer-Sam-Dhanana Road to get to this much talked about abandoned village. There aren’t too many signs along the way, but with surprisingly good cellular network, it was a breeze to get to.
Our first impression of Kuldhara was everything we imagined. The wrinkled old man at the gate, the rubble of rock lying around, the swirls of dust kicked up by the wind and the eerie silence, all added to the stories we’d heard along the way.
Kuldhara isn’t very old and there’s numerous stories surrounding it. The most popular one goes like this. Roughly around 300 years ago, Kuldhara was home to the very enterprising and closely-knit Paliwal Brahmin clan. Legend has it that Salim Singh, the lecherous minister of state, set his eyes on the beautiful daughter of the head of the village and wanted to marry her by force. The Paliwals held a council comprising all 84 villages and rather than submit to the threats of the minister, everyone decided to pack up and leave overnight. The story gets it’s eerie twist from the curse the supposedly lay on Kuldhara before leaving – nobody would be able to settle down here again. And nobody has dared to stay here ever since, leaving this village in the ruined avatar of it’s once illustrious past.
There are a few other stories about why the village was abandoned as well but none as dramatic. One goes that the same Salim Singh raised taxes so high that the Paliwals had no option but to move out than pay them. Whichever story you prefer, little is known about what happened after.
As for Kuldhara, nothing stands there now but a village in ruins. The houses are in various degrees of dilapidation. Some stand as they used to centuries ago, while others are nothing but a few heaps of rock scattered in patters that let you decipher what they would’ve looked like centuries ago. In the midst of all the ruin, stands a temple where we saw some signs of current worship.
Speaking to some of the locals hanging around, we were told that various groups of people have attempted staying overnight at Kuldhara, only to be scared away by inexplicable paranormal activity. Irrespective of whether Kuldhara is really haunted or not, what’s apparent is that it’s truly an abandoned ruin today, home just to passing cattle or camels. But there’s beauty there too. Very clear signs that this was once a prosperous happy village, filled with people who’ve called this home for a long time. So when we left Kuldhara, we didn’t leave it spooked. We left it with a tiny bit of happiness of having walked through this little piece of legend.