The 13 Most Haunted Places in the World: No. 13, Bhangarh Ruins, Rajasthan, India
The haunting of the Bhangarh Temple Ruins is well-established in Rajasthan folklore and can be traced to real events.
A history of conflict, a sorcerer's curse, shadow entities, the ghost of a dead princess, and a labyrinth that eats those who stray inside after dark make Bhangarh Ruins one of the most haunted places on earth.
This is the first in a series I am writing exploring some of the most haunted places in the world! Most can be visited in person, some only from an armchair, but all are fascinating examples of the presence of the supernatural in our modern world.
The government may not believe in ghosts, but apparently ASI staffers do; they will not enter the Bhangarh precincts when night comes.
Although it may not officially endorse the belief in ghosts, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) is taking no chances. Tasked with establishing a field office on the site of the Bhangarh Temple Ruins, the ASI, the official government agency responsible for the maintenance of India's historical sites, opted instead for a location approximately a half mile away. The government may not believe in ghosts, but apparently ASI staffers do; they will not enter the Bhangarh precincts when night comes. For others - the curious and the daring - signs everywhere warn against entering the ruins before sunrise or staying there after dark.
Bhangarh was founded in the year 1573, during the tumultuous period of the Mughal Empire, by Rajah Bhagawant Das, ruler of the City of Amber, who fortified the walls and built the fortress. Despite ongoing conflicts throughout Rajasthan and greater India, the city at Bhargarh continued to flourish under Bhagawant's son, Madho Singh, and saw the construction of many of the temples that today stand in ruins. Rulership of Bhangarh passed to Madho's son, Ch'hatr, but his death in 1630 following a violent attack marked the beginning of Bhangarh's decline. By 1783, following a season of deadly famine, the fortress and the city were finally abandoned.
But folk traditions have other, darker explanations for Bhangarh's desolation.
The Bhangarh Curse
There is more than one legend put forth as the catalyst for Bhangarh's desertion by its inhabitants, but nearly every explanation boils down to one thing: the city was cursed.
In one legend, a guru living as a hermit near Bhangarh would only give his blessing to the city's construction as long as it did not overshadow his dwelling place in the hills nearby. Should the sprawl of Bhangarh ever grow large enough to infringe upon the sacred hills and his hidden abode, a curse would fall upon the city and it would be left in ruin. When one of the Singh descendants built the palace walls so that they blocked the sun from shining on the sacred hills, the guru's curse became reality and Bhangarh was abandoned.
Perhaps the most popular legend, and the one that best explains the hauntings attributed to the Bhangarh ruins, is that of the Rahasthani Princess Ratnavati. So beautiful that none in India could match her, she was much sought-after as a bride among the Princes and Rajahs. According to the legend, a tantric magician was so entranced by Ratnavati's beauty, so hopelessly in love with her, that he turned to black magic to make her his own.
He followed the princess everywhere and one day he saw her servant in the market buying perfumes for her mistress. The sorcerer used the opportunity to cast a spell over a jar of perfumed unguent meant to lure the princess to him as soon as she used it. But another loyal servant of the princess observed the sorcerer's actions and immediately informed the princess who took the cursed jar and smashed it upon a rock. It is said that the rock came to life and sought out the sorcerer who, just before he was crushed, laid a curse upon the princess, the city, and all the surrounding land. According to sources, the curse came true the following year when Bhangarh fell to hostile forces from the nearby city of Ajabgarh; everyone, including the princess, was killed, and Bhangarh abandoned forever.
Never venture here after dark, or before sunrise!
Visitors to the Bhangarh Ruins will attest to the fact that even in the daytime an air of melancholy clings to the place.
The wind whistles down the long-abandoned hallways of once-vibrant temples and in little spirals of dust moving across the empty courtyards. Roads to and from the city are white in the sun and plunge through brush and groves of ancient, twisted trees.
Strange noises, voices, distant music have all been reported, even in the daytime, but it is in the long hours of the night that Bhangarh really earns its haunted reputation. These are the forbidden hours, and anyone brave - or foolish - enough to remain in the temple precincts after dark, or venture there before the sun is full in the sky, is completely on his or her own: The ASI staffers are not going to venture into Bhangarh when it is covered in darkness. This is when faraway screams and weeping carry on the night air, and footsteps echo in the empty streets - the mourning of the dead Princess Ratnavati. Many believe the spirit of the tantric sorcerer has taken refuge in the nearby hills and comes down into the city at night in search of his lost princess; he is said to be responsible for the shadow entities that sometimes peer from ruined windows, for unexplainable growls from deep inside the walls, and for numerous disappearances over the years.
But it is not only an ancient fear that holds Bhangarh in its grip. In modern times there have been reports of people going missing inside the labyrinthine ruins. Some individuals who did not heed the many signs warning against entering the city after dark and who found a way inside completely undetected cannot be accounted for, but as recently as 2005 guards and ASI staffers were forced to overcome their reticence when they spotted two teenaged boys jumping an exterior wall. Hours of searching turned up nothing but a baseball hat and a tourist's guide to sights of India; the boys were never found. Perhaps the restless spirits of Bhangarh were increased by two that night . . .
How to Get There
Bhangarh Ruins are located between the cities of Jaipur and Alwar, the city of the Tiger Gate, the gateway to Rajasthan. Buses run from either location (check the local schedules) but stop about a half mile from the site, so plan to walk the distance; taxis are also an option from Jaipur of Alwar, but may be more expensive.
Places to Stay
India's ASI manages a number of tourist Rest Houses in areas nearby; none are closer than a half mile to the site. There are no accommodations closer to the site and overnight camping closer than a half mile to the site is strictly forbidden.
If You Go
Remember, the first practical rule of the paranormal investigator is also the first rule of the paranormal traveler, and that is: Do not break the law. Although the ASI staff are sometimes portrayed as fearful and superstitious, they nonetheless will stop and detain you if they catch you on the site at prohibited times; and you will be subject to prosecution for any and all laws you might break.
The second practical rule of the paranormal investigator should also be applied: Use the "buddy system." Do not go alone, always have at least one friend with you, and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Do not break up to explore individually, and don't forget, if you encounter the supernatural on your visit, your claim is more believable if at least two of you have witnessed something.
Finally, show respect at all times. You are travelling in a different culture, in this case an ancient culture with time-honored beliefs and traditions. Be mindful of this at all times and you are bound to have a more memorable trip.
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noxarcana is Alyne Pustanio, an author, occultist and medievalist published under the Creole Moon Publications imprint. She is a contributor to the works featured here, with several new works due out in 2013. Follow the rest of her series The 13 Most Haunted Places in the World, here on Squidoo!
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