“I could feel an eerie silence, a strange uneasiness as if someone was watching me”
“You know, one of my friends visited and couldn’t sleep for nights. There seems to be a strong presence even during the daylight.”
Whether personally experienced or not, this is how your first impression of a fort as majestic as Bhangarh is formed. No wonder, it comes naturally with the amount of notoriety it has garnered as being the most haunted place in India. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) legally prohibits any presence in the fort premises before sunrise and after sunset further arousing the interest around this world of paranormal presence.
Not to be dismissed as false narratives but I might completely disappoint and narrate the untold beauty instead of the anticipated horror stories, for we didn’t encounter any and honestly, never wished to.
Location – Bhangarh fort lies in the Alwar district of Rajasthan on the foot of Aravali hills guarding it fiercely within it’s protected walls. The original ruins might have been dreadfully haunting; though now, one can find some inhabitation with the nearest village just few kilometers away from the fort itself.
How to reach Bhangarh fort?
- By Road: A direct taxi/personal cab or two-wheeler is the most comfortable and safest option. Buses are not too frequent and might take several hours. Moreover, there are no direct ones as you would need to take a bus from Jaipur till Bassi and then hire a cab/taxi. An alternative option is to take a shared jeep/taxi from Alwar.
- By Rail – Dausa is the nearest railway station (one may take a local train from Jaipur till Dausa). From here shared taxis/ jeeps are operational; however, we didn’t see any.
- By Air – Jaipur International Airport is the nearest airport from the fort.
Stay options near Bhangarh fort – There are no hotels or tourist accommodations near Bhangarh fort for obvious reasons. The best option is to look for a stay either near Sariska Tiger Reserve or Jaipur.
Bhangarh fort Entry fee – Rs 25 (Rs 20 through a digital payment) for Indians
Bhangarh Fort Timings – 6 AM to 6 PM
Best time to visit Bhangarh fort – Winters are ideal season to visit preferably on weekdays during the first half of the day
NOTE – **It is advisable to carry water and wear comfortable footwear as distance to the main fort is a considerable amount and it would easily take about more than 2 hours here.
The fort was built in 16th century AD by Raja Bhagwant Das (also referred as Bhagwan Singh), the then ruler of Amer. Later, it became the capital of his younger son, Madho Singh who was a diwan in Akbar’s court and also brother of Raja Man Singh. Some historical data claim that the fort was built by Man Singh I, a general in Akbar’s troops. The original fort was built as a seven-storey towering structure out of which four remain now.
Legend of the “haunted Bhangarh” fort
So, what is the story behind that haunted tag? Well, there are few versions and two of them are the most popular narratives.
The first legend is of a sadhu named Guru Balu Nath (also referred as Baba Balak Nath) who lived within the fort walls. Man Singh I sought his permission to build the fort and was allowed to under the condition that any house built in the vicinity or the fort itself should not be taller than his. Hence, no shadow was to fall over his house else it would bring the fort down to rubbles. The king proceeded accordingly; however, his successors could not keep the promise thus resulting in the curse to materialize and untimely destruction of the place. The sadhu’s samadhi still lies in the premises.
The more popular legend is of the beautiful Bhangarh princess, Ratnavati who was known to have many suitors. She caught the attention of Tantrik Singhia, a wizard practicing black magic who tried to win her over but she kept refusing him. One day, following her to the marketplace, he offered her a love potion hidden in perfume. But the princess was clever enough not to fall for his trap and instead poured the bottle over a large boulder. The rock rolled over crushing the magician to death who cursed the town to destruction before taking his last breath. Interestingly, it is believed that the empire is waiting for the princess to return and end the curse.
The other folklores include stories of drought and war which resulted in the town to be perished. However; none of the above theories have solid historical evidence and hence remain unresolved as a fragment of imagination and successfully keep the curiosity alive.
Interesting facts about “Bhangarh fort”
- Most of the forts in Rajasthan are built atop a hill but the Bhangarh fort is an exception and lies at the foot of Aravali hills with three mountains as the backdrop. In fact, the fort remains invisible almost till the last stretch of the road until the entrance is reached. From the top, one gets a beautiful panoramic view of the town and nearby forests.
- It lies in very close proximity to the Sariska tiger reserve and there are fair chances of wild animals lurking after dusk, another reason not to stay around.
- The houses in the fort are roofless without any exception. The reason can be traced to the curse of Baba Balu nath. If stories are to be believed, it is impossible to construct a roof on these houses as it collapses and have lead to many deaths in the past.
- The place is also considered as a favorite spot to practice black magic and witchcraft at odd hours.
- Though Bhangarh is famous for its supernatural aura, the place has a great archaeological significance. During excavation; stone paintings, tools and carvings have been extracted. Local authorities believe that hidden treasures lie in form of gold and other valuables as the town was once a flourishing fleet of royalty.
- The vast vegetation behind the ruins are home to some very rare flora – most certainly to Kevada plants and Pandanus trees.
Major highlights of Bhangrah Fort:
- The fort has four main gates – Lahori Gate, Ajmeri Gate, Phulbari Gate and Delhi Gate.
- The Jauhari bazaar while heading to the main fort is the visible attraction. Roofless, small, empty spaces (most likely the shops) are symmetrically placed on either sides of the walk way. Close your eyes and it is not difficult to imagine the place filled with life and the splendor of royalty, now jarringly quiet.
- To the left, an old banyan tree around 300 years old adorns the fairly spacious complex.
- Your attention from all the supernatural stories will be distracted by the sight of many Hindu temples. Their presence is a welcome change and one can’t help but notice that these are the only complete structures with roofs above. Built on Nagara style of architecture like many counterparts in North India; the most notable of these are Gopinath temple (largest on the premises) and Someshwar temple (also a site of natural hot water spring). Other temples include – Hanuman temple, Mangala Devi temple, Ganesh temple, Keshav Rai temple. It is said that many priests and sages tried to lift the legendary curse off the place but to no good.
- If time permits, attempt a small trek to reach the watch tower built above to keep an eye on any prospective invaders.
A walk through Bhangarh fort
The main entrance gate is occupied by local vendors selling a variety of street food and other edibles defying the first impression of the most haunted fort to just a usual tourist attraction. Further, a beeline of people wait at the ticket counter impatiently to rush inside. In an attempt to satiate the curiosity of the haunted phenomenon it proudly holds, the fort is well flocked by visitors throughout the day until dusk.
The guards at the entrance clearly warn off to behave and make your way right back after the visit without venturing into any adventure. A well drawn out map of the fort reflects through the scorching daylight and is barely visible. Disguising ourselves under shades, hats, scarves; we make our way in. Deserted surroundings welcome us literally spreading their open arms. None of the roofless structure stands in a solid form but one can comprehend these to be remains of the houses of the masses in the kingdom.
Walking through long stretches of the market area (Jauhari bazar) and the landmark banyan tree, one finally heads to the fort gate. Lone, elderly villagers patiently wait and approach the visitors to narrate the story of this forlorn place in lieu of some money while the ladies offer water in earthen pots to the passersby for peanuts.
At first glance; the place does look haunted like any other abandoned historical ruin in India. It opens up to a massive area and gradually some old ruins are visible. The first stop is the Gopinath temple on the right. A small flight of stairs leads us to the temple and on a closer look, we see there are no idols inside the inner sanctum. The watch tower just lies above and we can’t stop wondering the view it would offer, if one were to climb but the weather dissuades us.
We walk further and enter the towered structure through another massive walled entrance. Forget ghosts but the obvious terror we encounter at the fort is caused by the sole visible inhabitants – a horde of monkeys. It turns out they are ready to take every generous offering of food and water otherwise causing no harm.
A steep climb up takes us to the main palace ruins through narrow, deserted alleys. There is not much trace of royalty left as the place remains a mess of massive stones and broken blocks from the structure and unlike other forts, you can’t distinctively differentiate between the royal chambers. We spend a few minutes to admire the beauty around but the blazing sunlight pierces through our skin. Descending down through the same way, we are back to the open campus and now visit the beautiful Someshwar temple on our right (left from main gate). Finally, walking through the Jauhari bazar again, we make our way to the outer world.
I stand afar taking respite from the heat, look back at the supposedly haunted fort instead it’s aesthetics besiege me.
Haunted or not, a trip to Bhangarh is highly recommended as an ideal outing for history buffs, photographers and adventure seekers despite a blurred image of the glorious past. In the harsh February afternoon which could be easily mistaken for a summer day, the vintage charm of the place wins my heart. Simultaneously, it’s difficult not to overhear and dismiss the loud chatters with expert opinions of fellow tourists questioning the authenticity of the fort being haunted or not. To their dismay, the ghosts from the past can’t arise in the scorching daylight to prove their credibility.
I am still left wondering, what goes on within the walls after sunset? Won’t it look beautiful if the palaces, temples, bazaars all come to life? It’s a mystery and I’m reminded of a simple quote by David Lynch –
“The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is“
The information provided is based on firsthand experience and online research (for historical facts). For any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below or email. I will revert at the earliest.
*A visit to this fort can be organized on our personalized, curated journeys to Rajasthan through Soulful Voyage. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.