Kuldhara, dotted with hundreds of dilapidated sandstone houses and dusty roads, lies 18 km southwest of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Standing cursed and haunted, it obtained an air of abandonment, beholding a secret that needs to be discovered!
With its origin in around the 13th century, it was inhabited by a prosperous clan of Paliwal Brahmins who were known for their business acumen and agricultural knowledge. Kuldhara was the largest village in the community of 84 villages settled nearby. It was home to over 1500 people housed in 400 houses living for centuries. But one night everyone left the town in the dark! Why did they do so? Why did they decide to leave their settlements after having lived there for centuries? Why did they vanish leaving behind every belonging, even their memories? The most startling question is- where did they go after all?
Atrocities or love?
One legend is associated with Salim Singh, who was the Diwan of Jaisalmer. He was well known for his debauchery and unscrupulous tax collecting methods. According to the tales narrated popularly, he had his eyes on the beautiful daughter of the chief of the village. He was hell-bent on having that girl and warned the villagers to mount heavy atrocities if they came his way. He gave them a deadline of just 24 hours. The villagers, not willing to surrender their girl to such a devil and for the sake of their pride and honour, decided to leave the town overnight, leaving their belongings behind.
Also, before they left the village they cast a curse that no one would ever inhabit the village again. The spell stays true until today! And the village remains desolate!
The most mindblowing and interesting part is- where did they settle then? Historians have found no clear evidence of where did these Paliwal Brahmins settled after leaving their ancestral village.
Was it an earthquake?
In contrast to the above-mentioned legend, in recent researches, signs of tectonic movements have been found along with several major faults in the region. Moreover, according to the researchers, the dilapidated structures were located on the geological faults. Collapsed walls, scattered dressed stones, fallen lintels, pillars are evidence of their study.
But if the place faced a sudden earthquake, then why did it remain desolate? It could have been renovated for re-inhibition.
Most probably, it was because of the stories of mysterious deaths and rumours that the village was haunted, no one ever dared to come and settle there.
Or was it scarcity of water?
While another theory suggests that the dwindling water supply forced the villagers to seek new sources of water elsewhere. They had an advanced understanding of agriculture and they were able to grow crops in harsh dry conditions of the Thar, identifying water presence beneath the soil. Thus the scarcity of water might have led to the starving population.
But still, the question remains unanswered that if water scarcity was the reason, then why people vanished overnight itself, why not in the daytime?
Or was there an invasion?
One more speculation by historians supports the possibility of an invasion on Kuldhara. According to this viewpoint, invaders, on the festive day of Raksha Bandhan, might have poisoned the communal wells with animal carcasses. Several villagers martyred protecting their own village from invaders and had to migrate to new and safe places overnight! Interestingly, the Paliwal community does not celebrate Raksha Bandhan!
What can be the truth?
This desolate place with a frightening look is now a heritage site maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The amazing fact about this place is that the gates of Kuldhara are closed by neighboring villagers as they believe that supernatural beings take over as the sun sets. The temple there continues to stand amidst the ruins. However, the sadness still lies in the air thinking of the forefathers who had to abandon it overnight. The truth still remains below the layers of soil! And the legend of Salim Singh continues to attract the interests of most of the people. Moreover, the legend is supported by ghostly activities noticed there. There are references to the sounds of screaming and other bizarre activities!
You may also read about India’s haunted Bhangarh Fort.