Bhangarh Fort – you hear this name every time someone talks about the most haunted places in India. You hear the horror stories of people who tried to enter the premises after dark. Yes, officially you are not allowed to enter the Bhangarh Fort premises from sunset to sunrise. I heard about it from travelers, in newspapers, and in books. However, it took me a long time and a serendipitous detour to reach Bhangarh.
This Jaipur Trip I had Chand Baori on my plan. Bhangarh made an appearance in the dinner conversation the night before we were to visit Chand Baori. The stories worked their magic and Bhangarh walked into our itinerary for the next day. We still stayed loyal to Chand Baori and visited Bhangarh on our way back.
Why is Bhangarh Fort Haunted?
There are two popular legends about the cursed, abandoned, deserted and haunted Bhangarh Fort.
First one says that a saint used to inhabit this hill. When the king wanted to build a fort for his son. Saint allowed him to but on a condition – the shadow of none of his buildings should fall on his hut. If so happens, the place will be abandoned. In time, some building was built that cast the shadow on saint’s hut and this brought the end of Bhangarh – converting it into a ghost town.
Read the second legend in the history of Bhangargh below.
History of Bhangarh Fort
Bhangarh fort was established by Raja Bhagwant Das in 1573 CE for his second son Madho Singh. His elder son is better known – Maan Singh who was Akbar’s general. It did not live for a long time and decline started in the rule of Chhatr Singh in 1630 CE. During the time of Aurangzeb, a beautiful princess named Ratnavati ruled from Bhangarh. Some say that Raja Jai Singh, who was fond of star gazing, sent her here to read stars. Ratnavati was trained in occult sciences and could potentially do black magic.
A prince named Singhia of neighboring Ajabgarh kingdom was a known Tantrik. He fell in love with Ratnavati but she was not interested. In a black magic fight, she made a boulder fall on Singhia. He died but not before cursing Ratnavati and Bhangarh. They say his curse came true.
Soon, there was a war between the two kingdoms that led to the decline of Bhangarh. This was followed by a famine in 1783 CE in which all inhabitants died. It has been a ghost town since then. No living person has lived in its premises since then.
Visiting Bhangarh Fort
Dusty roads surrounded by sunflower fields led to the greener hills of Aravali. The first structure that I noticed was a free-standing pavilion in the middle of the fields on our right before Bhangarh fort walls showed up. I would later learn that it is the tomb of the one who cursed the Bhangarh Fort. We parked the car and crossed a series of Bhutta (corn on the cob) sellers to reach the fort entrance. It seemed like just another fort – one of the so many scattered across the country. You are bound to ask why it invokes so many horror stories.
At the entrance, a stone plaque shows the map of the Bhangarh Fort. If you spend 5 minutes on this map, you would see the layout of a well-defined city. There are houses, Havelis, markets and temples and at the very end the royal palace. When you move your eyes from the board to the ruins in front of you, you wonder how life would have been in this well planned fortified city.
Surrounded by the Fort walls, we walked through the living quarters. The rich Havelis stand tall even in their ruined state. The Johri bazaar is a well-planned row of shops just like the ones we see in Jaipur.
Bhangarh Fort is very green despite standing in the middle of a desert.
Temples at Bhangarh Fort
Temples are the only structures that are intact and clearly identifiable.
At the entrance, on the right, you see a tree shrine and a small temple. As you walk in you see the temple shikhara emerging out of the thick green cover of the fort premises.
The first major structure that you see is Gopinath Temple. This temple sits on a high platform – like the traditional temples of Nagar style. We took a flight of steps to reach the temple. The door jamb of the temple is intricately carved. In the niches on either side of door sit an idol of Ganesha and Shiv-Parvati with an inscription. The sanctum though is empty.
It is a small temple but the pedestal on which it stands tells you that it was an important temple.
This is a Shiva temple next to a water tank just outside the gate that takes you to fort palace. The water spring, I learn is natural – it may have been the reason or necessary condition to build a fort here. The small Shiva temple has a Shivalinga and a Nandi statue – that is still worshipped.
It is fun to watch the kids play in the water and surprisingly there are a lot of fishes in the water.
Keshav Rai Temple & Mangala Devi Temples I saw from a distance only.
The main palace stands on the hill compared to the rest of the fort. It is said that the palace had 7 stories. Now only 4 survive. A steep ramp twists and turns before it takes you to the palace gates.
Two long corridors on either side of the stairs are the palace. It seems strange that people would live in what looks like an army barrack.
When you go on top, you see a lot of crumbled walls. The town within the fort is right in front of your eyes. You see the wall, the pathways, the temples, and the ruins. The hills nearby seem rugged as if they were being excavated for further construction but were left midway.
A small room is supposed to be Ratnavati’s temple but it seems empty now. When you stand here, you question, if this destruction is man made or nature made or as they say ghost made.
It is a place with different energy even when you see young boys jumping all around on the broken walls. It’s the kind of energy that tells you to leave the place – a kind of unwelcome energy.
My experience with Visiting Bhangarh Fort
You say the word haunted Bhangarh Fort and you would have people who would vouch for its haunted status and the ones who would laugh it off. I went there with my usual curiosity and to experience first-hand what it feels like to be at the most haunted place in India.
As I entered I did not feel anything except the melancholy that any ruined place exudes. As we walked through the road with ruins on both sides, we were a part of happy crowd clicking pictures. At the trees around ruins, it was a photo stop for me – the formations did look spooky, but then is that not what we know Banyan tree for.
It was when we were passing through the Bazaar part of the fort, I felt a push to the left. For a few steps, I felt I was being pushed on the left while there was no one on the left. A while later, I stopped and looked back to observe the spot where I felt the push. I saw there was an empty space – unlike the rest of the street, at this spot, people walked to the left or right and no one was crossing that spot. It was like someone is standing there.
Princess Ratnavati’s Palace
Later as we were climbing the stairs to go on top of the fort, you feel a gush of air coming from the empty corridors. It is not just another air, it does carry some strange energy. On top of the palace, where I was told it is Princess Ratnavati’s palace. The ruins look like they have just become ruins with thunder. The energy here is heavy, but the view of the fort from here is breathtaking. I think the view beckons me more than the small temple there. I must add there were lots and lots of people on the day we visited Bhangarh fort in August 2017. It might be a very different experience if you are alone there.
Ipsita Roy Chakraverti on Bhangarh
Ipsita Roy Chakraverti is a trained Wiccan. In January 2012, she traveled to Bhangarh Fort with her team that she calls Wiccan Brigade. They carried with them sophisticated cameras, magnetometers, and compasses.
Ipsita believes that certain places on earth have a restless energy and sensitive people can sense it. Taking the Ratnavati-Singhia story forward, she believes that Bhangarh was probably the seat of magic where people came for physical & mental healing or to attain their spiritual gains. She conjectures that locals still come here to exorcize women who are possessed. She saw a live example of this during her visit. While saying this she refers to the long rows of small rooms on the premises which cannot be homes or even shops. Some of these are double storeyed with steps in the corner leading to upper floors.
Ipsita senses strange energy in the large Banyan trees that engulf some of the fort structures. The compass needles she said were quivering and spinning near trees constantly. At places, her team’s cameras went blank – which is strange. I was conscious of this and my simple point and shoot camera seem to have captured all the images well.
In the two dark rooms at the end of the corridor in main palace building, Ipsita found the fire rituals being performed. She says she not only senses the magical powers of the past but the fact that they are being kept alive by present-day rituals. She says the rituals are disturbing the energies at Bhangarh, and we must allow them to rest.
Ipsita says her sensitive cameras captured a strange display of light – which is difficult to explain. She strongly believes that Bhangarh is not a military fort but a magical fort. The palace is built on a natural rise underneath which is a source of natural spring water.
Ipsita talks about the strange behavior of her team post the Bhangarh Fort visit.
Read more about her experience in the book – Travelling In, Travelling Out
Travel Tips for Visiting Bhangarh Fort
- Entry to Bhangarh Fort is free.
- Bhangarh Fort is best visited from Jaipur (80 Km) though it can be done from Delhi (260 km) as well.
- Except for small snacks, there is no food that is available.
- Please do carry water, although the kind people of Bhangarh offer water to tourists.
- Do not go early morning or late evening, but try to go in the morning to avoid harsh sun. There is no shade on the premises.
- The ramp leading to the palace is very steep and uneven – unless you are very confident, you can avoid climbing it.
Hotels in Bhangarh
As far as I could see there were no hotels around Bhangarh. We stayed in Jaipur at Lebua Resort and I think it would be best to stay at a hotel in Jaipur to visit Bhangarh.
Rajasthan Tourism Hotels are advisable if you plan to take the public transport.