Kuldhara – Haunted, Abandoned And Cursed Villages


Kuldhara is where the haunted stories of Rajasthan Live. Located about 18 km southwest of Jaisalmer, it is an abandoned desert village with many stories of its abandonment.

The vast expanse of Thar Desert
The vast expanse of Thar Desert

Legends of Kuldhara

There are a couple of versions of the story of the village and how it was abandoned. It is said that the Paliwal community inhabited the 84 villages in this area.

Enroute to Kuldhara haunted village in the deserts
Enroute to the haunted village in the deserts

The first version says that the Diwan or the minister of the ruler of Jaisalmer called Salim Singh, also called Zalim Singh, levied heavy taxes on them. He was also eyeing the girls of the community. In fact, the story goes that it was the daughter of the chief of the village.

When Salim Singh’s men came to take the girl, the villagers told them to come in the morning. Overnight, the villagers moved elsewhere – leaving everyone wondering where they went. Some version says that the girl committed suicide and to avoid a repeat of this, villagers decided to leave.

Chhatri structure atop a hill near Kuldhara
Chhatri structure atop a hill

However, before leaving they left a curse on their abandoned houses that no one would be ever able to inhabit them. The villages and the house will stay abandoned as they leave them. Villages do lie more or less in the same state even today as if the curse lives on.

Water level marker stone in a dried lake reminiscent of heritage
Water level marker stone in a dried lake reminiscent of heritage

Rajasthan Tourism has restored the house of the village head, whose daughter was the target of the king. A room in the house is said to be the place where the chieftain left the dead body of the girl along with the curse.

Another Haunted site in Rajasthan is Bhangarh Fort.

Who were the Paliwal Brahmins of Kuldhara?

A small group of Brahmins came from the Pali region of Rajasthan and settled here on the banks of the Kakni river, sometime in the 13th CE. They even excavated a pond called  Udhansar. Since they came from Pali, they came to be known as Paliwal. You can still hear this surname in Rajasthan. They left Kuldhara sometime in the early 19th CE. This means for about 600 years, this was home to them.

Pair of Hero stones at Kuldhara
Pair of Hero stones

Archeological evidence suggests that the villages may have been abandoned due to an earthquake. Drying up of the river, the primary source of water could be another reason to leave the villages. Another theory says the water levels went down, bringing down the agricultural produce but the taxes stayed the same. So, staying in the village was not possible for the Paliwal community.

Hero stone at Kuldhara
Hero stone at the village

Census records of various rulers show a sharp decline in population in the 19th CE. 16th CE records in Lakshmi Chand’s Tawarikh-e-Jaisalmer put the population estimates at 1600, which was reduced to 30 odd people in 19th CE during British days.

Visiting Kuldhara

The legend of Paliwal and it’s abandoned and cursed villages continue to live in their ruins. Rajasthan tourism has done its bit by converting them into tourist attractions without really disturbing them. They have managed to maintain the haunting essence of these villages wrapped in mystery.

Ruins and remnants of the haunted village in the deserts
Ruins and remnants of the haunted village in the deserts

Luckily, I got to visit the villages twice, once during the day and once as part of the haunted trail past midnight. These villages are spread across the outskirts of Jaisalmer city.

Late Night Chudail Trail at Kuldhara

This trail was organized by our hosts – Suryagarh

Late at night, Himmat Singh, our driver took us on the haunted trail curiously named ‘Chudail Trail’. Himmat Singh was the one who was most scared among all of us, though his name ironically means Courage.

It was well past midnight, we sat at the stairs of the Shiva temples next to a haunted well. Being a bunch of travelers, we got chatting about our travels. Himmat Singh kept giving us frantic signals by flashing the car lights urging us to get up and leave immediately.

We could have reasoned with him that we did not feel anything but then is it not all about belief? If he believes that the spirits inhabited these places and they must be left alone at night, his discomfort at our casual attitude was justified.

View of the cursed villages of Jaisalmer from Khaba Fort
View of the cursed villages of Jaisalmer from Khaba Fort

The Chudail trail led us through

  • A well where it is believed many people were killed and thrown
  • A temple that was closed at night
  • Many cremation grounds with memorial stones and cenotaphs called Deolis
  • Abandoned and the cursed village

The villages are completely in ruins now.

We entered the village chief’s house which has two floors. Some of my co-travelers felt that the haunted room in the village chief’s house felt spooky. This is the room where some people have recorded paranormal activity. Honestly, I did not feel anything. The only fear that played in my mind was the fear of tripping over uneven surfaces in complete darkness.

However, this night’s adventure will stay with me for a long time.

Remains of cursed villages of Kuldhara, Jaisalmer
Remains of cursed villages of Kuldhara, Jaisalmer

Desert Landscape of Kuldhara

The next day, we again visited the abandoned villages.

During the daytime, ruins in local yellow stones almost merge with the yellow sand of this region. From some angles, you feel you are surrounded by gold. No wonder the Jaisalmer Fort is Called Sonar Qila. Memorial stones and canopies sprout out here in the wide vistas of the desert.

We drove up a hill to admire these vast vistas of the Great Indian Desert. There is a small temple on top of this hill. If you go around the temple with your back to the temple, you see a 360-degree view of the vast expanse of the Thar desert.

Some depressions indicate the places where water would collect as and when it rains. It is probably an oasis in its dry state. Standing on this hill was like letting your eyes see as far as possible. It is something that you only get to see in the desert or on a long beach.

Remember, Jaisalmer is very close to the Indo-Pak border. At one point we were just about 20 km from the International border. Like every Indian, I wondered, what lies on the other side of the border?

Cenotaphs or Deolis

On our way to the lovely Lodurva temple, we stopped at clusters of cremation places. There are 3 in all in these ruins of the village.

Most of these cremation places have free-standing stone memorials. The milestone-like stones have images of a man or a couple or sometimes a man with two women carved on them. It probably indicates the number of people who died together – a man, a man along with his wife or wives. Does it indicate the practice of Sati? Probably Yes.

A stone Cenotaph in the abandoned village
A stone Cenotaph in the abandoned village

There were cenotaphs on top of some of the memorials. These probably belong to important people. You can see the Rajasthani dressing style with women in Lehengas & Odhnis. Men’s garments seem to have been influenced by the Mughals.

All of these memorial stones have a citation in Devnagari and a date that as per my limited knowledge should date them to the late 17th or early 18th CE. Literature tells me that some of these date back to the 13th CE. It also mentions them as Brahmins of Kuldhar or Kalshar caste. They may have been a sub-community of Paliwal Brahmins.

Read More – Royal Cenotaphs @ Bada Bagh, Jaisalmer

I learned that a freestanding tall stone with a figure of God carved on it indicates a water body close by. How I wish we could document these old techniques of mapping places and creating markers to help people locate common necessities.

Sati Stones or Memorial Stones in the Thar Desert
Sati Stones or Memorial Stones in the Thar Desert

Khaba Fort

Khaba fort stands on another hillock. It can be seen from all sides as you drive towards it through a winding road. From the top of the ruins of Khaba fort you see another village just like this one – abandoned but highly organized and urban.

Landscape view of Khaba Fort
Landscape view of Khaba Fort

Everyone kept telling us about villages and their abandonment. However, these ruins indicate an old urban settlement. Houses are along straight lines with wide roads running in between them. The construction of all the houses is very similar and they are bound together in close clusters.

Stone walls still stand as if they are outgrown from the foundation, but almost none of them had a roof on top of them. At one end, you also get an impression of a city wall.

It does not look like a village from a few centuries back but the urban settlement of ancient times. I would have been inclined to believe them as part of the Indus Valley civilization. The fact that defies this is the fort and stone have been used in construction instead of bricks. I could not see the sanitation system, but since I spent very little time, it is possible I missed it altogether.

Inside view of the Khaba Fort
Inside view of the Khaba Fort

I hope I get to visit this place again with some historians who can explain more than what the tourism industry can.

Abandoned sites have energy from the times they were living, you have to be sensitive enough to feel it.

Travel Tips

Remember it is very easy to get lost in the desert. In places, there is no marker to help you find your direction & network connectivity can be choppy. So, always go with a local, who can bring you back to your base.

A temple in the haunted abandoned village
A temple in the haunted abandoned village
  • Do the night trail of Kuldhara only with a local expert
  • Carry a lot of drinking water with you
  • Cover yourself well to avoid heat


  1. One Of The reason I Love Rajastahn Is That There Is Always An Horror Story Associated With Each N Every Fort & Places.


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