Some places seem a perfect fit for ghosts and hauntings, be they old broken down houses, abandoned sites, or dark forests, and among these are the ruins of old, where the only thing remaining from history are the skeletons of what once was and perhaps the spirits of the past. One very good example of a place that seems perfectly suited to its paranormal reputation is a now empty city in India which is said to be deeply haunted, cursed, or both.
Sprawled out at the foot of the mountains in the Rajgarh municipality of the Alwar district in the state of Rajasthan there is an ancient gated uninhabited village surrounded by crumbling walls and shattered ramparts, peppered with numerous temples, homes, shops, and what was a palace that overlooks the whole domain, all once glorious and now in abandoned ruin. This is Bhangarh, originally founded in 1573 to provide an opulent residence for Madho Singh, a general of Emperor Akbar and the second son of the great ruler Bhagwant Das, and with its fortified walls, intimidating gates, and grand royal palace it was once quite the sight to behold, renowned for its magnificent grandeur and picturesque scenery.
Yet, in 1783 there was a mass exodus of people from this once proud place, thought to be due to a famine but no one is really sure, and the town fell into utter disrepair and was eventually cordoned off from the rest of the world by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a sign posted outside ominously reading “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.” It is a place slowly being claimed by time, absorbed back into the wilderness, its only denizens the many monkeys and rats who cavort through its empty streets and by all accounts ghosts as well, as Bhangarh has over the centuries drawn about itself a reputation for being one of the most haunted, cursed places in India, to the point that it is rumored that this is the real reason the ASI does not want people to enter after dark.
Such spooky tales have their roots in the dark stories orbiting the town, of which there are several, combined with the lack of concrete information and much mystery as to why it was all so suddenly abandoned. Although it is mostly thought that people fled the town due to the great famine, an event called the Chalisa, or that it was possibly helped along because Bhangarh was invaded by the rival ruler Jai Singh II in 1720, it has never really been concretely explained, and the history on it all is rather murky. This has led to a few different legends as to how the town came to be this way, and why it is a place infused with supernatural darkness.
There are two main stories concerning this cursed “Ghost Village of India.” One that is widely believed is that there was once a powerful mystic holy man named Balu Nath, who lived in the area long before construction of the city had even begun, was possibly immortal, and who only gave his blessing if Bhagwant Das agreed to never build any structure so high that it could cast a shadow over Balu Nath’s residence or throw shade over his meditations in the forest. To do so, warned the mystic, would be to risk a great and terrible curse that would descend upon the whole region to cast it into ruin, of which he ominously proclaimed, “Should the shadows of your palaces at any point touch me, your city will be no more. I shall have it committed to the dust and wind.”
The ruler agreed to these terms, and even honored them, with the Royal Palace indeed only built up to 3 stories at the time. However, a later descendant of the ruler is said to have broken or forgotten the rule, with the town and its many buildings, towers, and spires growing ever higher and the bustle of the city’s inhabitants making too much noise and pollution. In response to this, the mystic Balu Nath is said to have remained true to his word and cast a potent curse that quickly led to Bhangarh’s ruin. Indeed, it is said that Balu Nath was eventually buried in the abandoned town somewhere and that his spirit still roams the streets and palace at night.
Another pervasive legend in the town is that of Rani Ratnavati, the princess of Bhangarth, who was purportedly so beautiful that no one could resist her. One of her many admirers was said to be a black magician named Singhiya, who fell in love with her and tried to win her affections through magical means. He went about casting a love spell on a bottle of perfumed oil she fancied in a market, but the princess apparently saw what he was up to and promptly threw the bottle to the ground, spilling the contents. Bizarrely, the oil is said to have congealed into a rolling boulder for reasons not immediately apparent, which headed straight toward the mage to crush him. As he lie there dying he is said to have cursed the town and put into effect its downfall. Other versions of the story claim that Ratnavati herself was an evil witch who kidnapped young children to use in rituals to prolong her own life, or that she even cursed the town herself after being denied the right to marry a man from a lower caste. Whatever the case may be, the story ends with the town being blighted with pain, misfortune, and suffering, and Ratnavati’s ghost as well as her suitor are yet other spirits said to prowl these streets and the surrounding countryside.
This may all sound like pure myth and legend, but for many in the region the town of Bhangarh with its weed infested, disintegrating structures and its feral, unkept streets is a deeply haunted and cursed place to be avoided. The curse is said to keep any crops from growing here, and it is widely believed that any new building constructed here will have its roof mysteriously caved in. There are tales that anyone who is to enter the town after dark will never come back out, and that evil spirits stalk the ruins at night, to the point that Bhangarth is widely recognized as one of the most haunted places in all of southern Asia. Common occurrences reported by locals and tourists alike are the sound of ethereal music, laughing, dancing, and a shadowy figure standing forlornly in one of the upper windows of the palace, said to be the spirit of Balu Nath, and another wraith who stands on a nearby hill which is believed to be the ghost of the black mage Singhiya, as well as assorted other specters, shadow people and spirits. Pictures taken here will also supposedly often offer up anomalous images of orbs or faces, and many supernatural entities such as djinn are said to frequent here.
There have also been sinister tales of freak deaths and accidents associated with the locale. A notorious one is the story of a man who fell into a well and injured his head while exploring the ruins, by some accounts pushed by unseen hands. As he was being brought to the hospital, the vehicle was involved in a serious crash and he and two others perished. It is probably just an unfortunate accident and stroke of bad luck, but locals say it is due to the curse. In another incident there was a bus of over 50 people who were riding through the area when it experienced a terrible crash. Although most of the passengers were uninjured, student Tarun Aakash and his two friends suffered severe injuries even though they were sitting far apart on the bus. Curse or coincidence?
Various paranormal investigators and psychics have flocked here and come away with their own tales of strangeness. Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma, hosts of one of India’s most well-known paranormal shows India’s Most Haunted, have voiced their conviction that the area is indeed very much haunted, and when they visited the town they claimed that they had heard a woman screaming and had had rocks thrown at them from the darkness. Rocky would say, “This was the only location where Mayur Sharma refused to do an isolation session. If I were to say that any of the places I’ve been to in the last 20 years is haunted, I’d say Bhangarh.” Stories of trespassers coming across freak accidents, ghosts, and anomalous noises abound here, and the legends continue to swirl.
Then of course there is that sign warning people away after daylight, which is heavily blamed on the hauntings. Yet, this is probably just an urban legend, as there are many reasons to keep people away, since the area is full of decrepit, unsteady rock structures and animals such as leopards and tigers prowl the area at night, especially since the whole thing sits up against the edge of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. One superintending archaeologist of ASI Vasant Kumar Swarnakar, has said of the tale, “Every monument in the country has the same sign. It has nothing to do with ghosts or spirits. All that is rubbish.” There is also the fact that these are ancient, crumbling ruins in desperate need of restoration, so it is perhaps to be expected that there should be accidents for those trying to climb around in them, and this is probably another reason the sign is in place.
It is uncertain just what forces are at work here or if there is any truth to the legends and the tales of this once grand ghost town. Are these just old spooky tall tales and superstition or is there something more to it all? Whatever is going on with Bhangarth it certainly is an eerie place laced with dark lore. One look at the empty streets with their monkeys picking through long abandoned buildings and decrepit, weed-choked temples, and one can see that it is certainly a creepy locale, and when the sun begins to dip and the shadows come out to play that if this isn’t a haunted, cursed place then it very well should be.