"Archeological Survey of India forbids people to go here after sunset."
"A place to give you ‘the chills’ even in the day."
" India's most haunted place with a terrible past"
These are some of the 'headlines' of almost anything ever written about Bhangarh.
Bhangarh, a town established in the 16th century and in ruins since the 18th, is located in the state of Rajasthan in India. Popularly titled "the most haunted place in India" Bhangarh attracts at least a few hundred tourists in the scorching summer heat and the number is significantly higher during the winters. Some people claim to have visited the fort at night too.
These stories doing rounds on the internet is what fascinated me to visit Bhangarh fort. I have always been one for finding proofs of the unknown and the unexplained but had never encountered any such phenomenon in my conscious life. I had a strange fascination with Bhangarh, an allure of the ruin city. When I made up my mind to pay it a visit, I was sure this trip would be quite different from all the others I have had and Bhangarh would have the power to scare me out of my wits.
The journey from Gurgaon, a city in NCR, to Bhangarh starts from NH8 and continues on it till the district of Bhiwadi in Rajasthan. From here, the route takes one to Tijara, Alwar, Rajgarh, and finally, Bhangarh. I encountered only a couple of villages after Alwar and a handful of people traveling to other places in Rajasthan. One should be prepared for a bumpy ride after one is off the highway. However, the Aravalli range surrounding the roads makes the journey one to look forward to. I was all alone on the way, very few people to guide me and tell me if I was going in the wrong direction, which wasn't not too likely, thanks to Google.
Road to Bhangarh
With my car the only one on the narrow roads for several minutes and several times, the secluded and lonely hills with almost no vegetation, I was convinced the end would be as satiating as the journey. I started comparing my journey to a Dan Brown novel, an appropriately excellent buildup leading to a smashing, shocking yet satisfying, end. However, the 7 hour journey turned out to be an Ian Rankin novel, a great buildup with the end devoid of power to sustain it.
On reaching Bhangarh, I found myself amongst the few hundred who had dared to travel to see the famed edifice.
There were two sets of people at the gate- the one with excitement on their faces were the ones entering the castle, wanting to try their luck, secretly wishing they would encounter at least one supernatural phenomenon or uncover a hidden passageway.
The second set of people were the ones making their way out. Almost every one of them had a disappointment on their faces. Instead of encountering a ghostly presence, they had had 'The Revelation'. Some of them were murmuring what a sham it had been. Nonetheless, I walked in as a few negative opinions failed to suppress my enthusiasm.
The walk up to the castle from the main gate took me through a lot of roofless ruins. This is where the town of Bhangarh was supposed to be. “'The curse' prevents anyone to build roofs over these structures" is how the story goes. However, if you were to visit any other castle, anywhere in the world, you wouldn't find any difference between these ruins and the ones around other castles.
The first sight of the fort failed to impress me. The eerie grandeur of it that attracted me from the pictures was absent. It stood tall amongst the dwarf mountains surrounding it, with a history, no doubt, but no more haunted than any other fort sprinkled in plenty in the state of Rajasthan.
A kid, about 10, followed me from some point and insisted I let him guide me and tell me the scary story of the fort. I agreed, my hopes rising. This is the story he narrated-
This castle was built by a king (whose name was unknown) and the construction went on till its shadow started to fall on a Tantrik’s temple (which, he pointed out, was on the top of a hill nearby). The Tantrik cursed the king for this (the 'overshadowing' of the temple) and this blew up all the roofs of the houses.
If I had any zeal left inside me to explore the castle, it was lost on listening to this story. The boy declared the story and his guidance were over at this point, barely 5 minutes after they had started, and demanded the money I had promised. I paid him off and went inside the castle anyway.
The castle had no charm whatsoever. The scariest thing about the castle is that it is infested with bats and snakes at places. So, it is better to be careful and not go exploring too much inside it. Still, hoping against hope, I went inside every room, every corridor I could, not expecting to meet some ghosts wandering about doing chores but to see what scared people enough to label it most haunted place ever.
Besides a bat flying straight at me and almost colliding with my forehead if I hadn't ducked, I could not find any reason to call it 'scary', let alone haunted.
Still not satisfied with the obvious exaggeration of the place, I began talking to people around me. I found a few of them who lived nearby (nearest town being about an hour's drive away).
They told me they have visited the fort quite a few times. They knew what my question was going to be and answered it plainly- No, sir, in our visits here, both in day and night, we haven't encountered any ghostly presence or a spirit.
The famous sign outside the fort from the Archaeological Survey of India, making it illegal to go inside the fort after sunset is another thing that has been made famous by the internet. However, if you visit any other heritage monument in Delhi, or any other place within India, you would find a similar board resting outside and the reason isn't to keep the people safe from ghosts. It is there to keep the poor heritage sites safe from vandals and other improper, illegal activities.
So, the next time someone tells you to visit Bhangarh, do it for the wonderful drive, the dusty dwarf hills along the way will make your journey worthwhile. If you find a ghost tagging along with you on your way back, it’s probably because it needed a ride to somewhere and not because you raided its home in Bhangarh.