Discover the Ghost Town of Kuldhara

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Rajasthan | 70
Eerie Silence through the rumbles,
Shivers through your spine as you explore the crumbles,
They say it existed, it isn’t a story,
There used to be a village in its times of glory.
 
These are the feelings that I would use to describe the Ghost Town of Kuldhara, in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Kuldhara Village, Rajasthan
Kuldhara Village, Rajasthan
Many of us have heard of Ghost Towns – towns that have been abandoned owing to natural calamities, some buried under the sands of time and others left behind with an intriguing tale of their own. Kuldhara for me is one such story – a bustling town emptied owing to an incident, a town that still exists but does not, a town that still whispers its tales as you walk through the ruins. 
Ruins of the Kuldhara Village
Ruins of the Kuldhara Village
I had heard of Kuldhara from a friend who had visited Rajasthan. Ever since then, it always intrigued me and with my recent trip to Jaisalmer, I has this as an uncompromisable destination – a definite must-visit place. For me, it was about a lot of questions that I wanted answers to. 

Why was it abandoned? 
What was the real story?
What is still there? 
Is it really haunted?

Let me start with a history to this Ghost Town – 

Story of Kuldhara

The story of Kuldhara starts with the settlement of Paliwal Brahmins, a tribe that flourished in trade and was well settled for generations in this place. It is said that Salim Singh, one of the ministers here, had an eye on the beautiful daughter of the village chieftain. He gave the entire village an ultimatum that either they hand-over the girl to him or be ready to face the consequences of not acquiescing to his demands. The village elders asked for a few days to come to a decision. Instead of handing over the girl, the chiefs packed their belongings and vanished from the village overnight. The entire settlement consisting of over 83 villages disappeared – and no one knew where. It is said that while leaving they cast a curse on the village of Kuldhara stating that no one will ever be able to inhabit the place and therein, starts the story of the ghost town.
Entrance to the Kuldhara Village
Entrance to the Kuldhara Village

My tour of Kuldhara

3 centuries later, this village lies as an abandoned town, 18 kms from Jaisalmer, enroute to Sam Desert. As I entered the gates of the village along with my friends and family, I could not help those little tingles of excitement and curiosity. Not many people visit this village, considering the eerie stories of the ghosts roaming around and some reports of Paranormal activity. The lack of people adds to the mystic of the place. 
Ruins of various homes in Kuldhara
Ruins of various homes in Kuldhara

 

As you walk along the roads, you will see tons of ruins – of homes that have decayed and fallen down over time, of dusty roads and overgrown shrubs. I ventured into a few of these homes – trying to figure out the layout, all the while wondering, what would it have been like when the Paliwal Brahmins actually lived here. Various thoughts like – where would the kitchen have been, who would have lived in this room, what would have been the view from this windows etc, kept running through my head, adding further mystery to this town.

Reconstructed house in Kuldhara
Reconstructed house in Kuldhara

 

As we moved ahead, we reached this set of re-constructed homes. Based on what would have been, the Rajasthan tourism is trying to re-create the same environment as what Kuldhara would have looked in its hey days. You can venture into the re-constructed homes to get a feel of the layout and in my case, get a few answers to the questions that were running through my head.

Within the re-constructed home, Kuldhara
Within the re-constructed home, Kuldhara
Here I meet this little boy, who self-appoints himself as our guide, insisting that since his parents are from thereabouts and he knows every little story, every little legend and every nook and corner of this town. He re-affirms the story of Kuldhara, adding that the elders in the village did not go with the rest of the families owing to their age and slowly died in the village, leaving behind the curse. 🙂
 
Another version of this story that seems to be available online is that Salim Singh increased the taxes on the village to a point that the villagers could not take the load and hence, abandoned Kuldhara. When I checked on this with our little guide, he insisted that the first version was the correct one and that the pretty girl was the reason for the villagers to have fled this town. 😉
Balconies of the reconstructed houses
Balconies of the reconstructed houses
As we continued to tour the rest of the house – taking in the views from the terrace, the balconies and various rooms, our little guide followed educating all of us on the various aspects of Kuldhara. On top of the building, is a small temple like structure, which may not have been in all the homes but in a few important ones – almost like a small shrine for the family God.
 
According to our little guide, there is some re-construction happening in Kuldhara where they are trying to create a set-up of what could have been Kuldhara 300 years ago. 
The traditional artistic Balconies of a home in Kuldhara
The traditional artistic Balconies of a home in Kuldhara
Based on the ruins found, the team is mimicking the architectural style and piecing together the long-lost village. Some of the carvings as in the picture above, seem really exquisite…beautiful enough for you to want to pose, take a picture and a memory home. 😉

In a hurry to leave, the villagers are said to have left behind quite a few of their belongings. When this abandoned village was discovered, the remains were pilfered and taken away by the local residents, leaving behind just rubble and ruins that you encounter on your visit. 
Small umbrella at Kuldhara
Small umbrella at Kuldhara
As we walked away from the re-constructed house, we reached an area that has a huge step well. The step well lies abandoned and in a state of dis-repair. While there is no restriction on entering the same, I would advise against doing so as the step well seems quite steep and deep and has not been used for centuries.
Steep Step well at Kuldhara
Steep Step well at Kuldhara
Ahead of the step well, is a regular well – that has not been fenced. I tried taking a peek into the same to see how deep it was but honestly, my heart skipped a beat – for two reasons. One – there was no protection or a handrail to hold while I attempted peeking into the well and two – there did not seem to be an end or a bottom that was visible from where I tried standing. Adding on to the goosebumps, were the shivers of a desolate ghost town. 

Check out the picture below to know what I mean!!! 
A deep well in Kuldhara
A deep well in Kuldhara
The entire area was covered with lots of wells, almost as if there was one for a cluster of families. Curiously, around each well, there were these poles, as in the picture below.
Poles around the various wells in Kuldhara
Poles around the various wells in Kuldhara
Our little guide admitted his first defeat of his knowledge of Kuldhara – for he did not know why these poles existed and what they meant. Personally, I was quite intrigued by them  – with their carvings of deities and some inscriptions that I could not decipher. This is when I wished that I had studied some ancient language and could read what was written. Among the various sculpted deities, I could recognise Lord Ganesha while the other one seemed like Goddess Durga. All the poles around the place were alike. My guess is that it possibly had a religious significance of thanking and praying for the water in the well. 😉

With this, we bid our little guide a goodbye and did tip him off for the interesting company that he gave us. We headed back to Jaisalmer but I could not shake this feeling that I had left with a lot of questions – possibly more than what I had gone with. 

What happened really? 
Is there really a curse? 
Where did the Paliwal Brahmins go? 
What happened to the girl? 
How did they escape without noticing – all 83 villages, disappearing overnight is a feat…

I guess, I may never know the answer but it is precisely the reason why this place will always remain intriguing for me. 

Getting here:

  • Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, is the closest town to Kuldhara. It is 18 kms away and the best approach to this is road.
  • There are no buses that take you here. You need to hire a cab to reach here. Cabs are easily available in Jaisalmer for the same.

Travel Tips:

  • Kuldhara is often, covered by the Desert Safari operators as a part of your Desert Safari package. Make sure you check on the same.
  • Like any other town in Rajasthan, the best time to visit Kuldhara or Jaisalmer is between October to February.
  • A lot of my general tips on Rajasthan can be accessed here. A lot of these would hold true for your visit to Kuldhara.
  • A visit to Kuldhara is permitted only during daylight owing to the rumours of a Ghost town. Hence, you can plan your visit in such a manner that you visit it on the way to the Sam Desert for this is just a small diversion on the same road.
  • Sure it is a ghost town, but there isn’t anything spooky about it. So, stay chilled and calm. Remember not to venture out on your own, especially near the well as the entire area is desolate and there are no safety precautions or fencing around.
  • The tickets to enter this town is available at the entrance. It is a minimum of INR 10 per person and INR 50 for a vehicle.


 

 

 

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70 Responses

  1. Lovely shots Ami.We had been to Jaisalmer but not to this place.Really missed this place.Thanks for taking us to the haunted place virtually.Really a place to be explored.The travel tips are really helpful.
    You could also visit the link about Jaisalmer in the link given below.
    http://www.srikri.com/2011/04/jaisalmer.html.

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

  2. An interesting story. I have heard about this place before. I too heard the little girl version as the correct one. Nice pics.

  3. Thanks Sriram and Kritiga….pity you missed out on Kuldhara. In fact a lot of people do miss out on it. Next time maybe….

  4. Thanks Arun….it is indeed the story around the place that makes the place interesting.

  5. Such mystery!
    I hope some truth comes out some day.
    A beautiful place otherwise.

  6. Very interesting post..

  7. Guess what? I have visited it at night too 😀 And it was doubly eerie!

  8. Lovely post and beautiful photographs. Such places have different versions of stories but I love hearing these tails, especially if there is an interesting guide around 🙂

  9. Great story and photos Ami!! What a fascinating mystery. I've always been curious about ghost towns and even old abandoned buildings just sitting out in the world. I wonder about who lived there, what their lives were like and why they left. If only those buildings could talk…

  10. This is exactly the sort of place where I would like to go often. Historical sites, especially ruins, are my favorite.

    I would have those questions too…maybe I will be there some day to experience these beautiful, yet spooky, sites again.

  11. Yep, it is the mystery that makes the place really attractive

  12. Wow…lucky you, I was informed that the entry is barred after 6pm 🙁

  13. Thanks VJ…it sure was fun, thanks to the tales by the little fella

  14. Thanks Dale. Rightly said, if only the buildings could talk….

  15. It sure is fun Alok, the mystery adds to the thrill of visiting these places.

  16. Ami I have obviously read about Kuldhara being a huge rajasthan enthusiastic but never before have I read such a well outlined post 🙂

  17. Thank you so very much for this appreciation. Glad you found it interesting.

  18. Whatever was the reason – taxes or girl, it definitely arouses my interest. I would love to go there and get a feel of it. Tourism should promote such places more rigorously.

  19. Hey Thanks for dropping by Saru…I tend to agree…these kind of places really pique the interest of tourists and one must promote them aggressively

  20. Great pics and writeup Ami. We drove to Jaisalmer last year from Ahmedabad, and Kuldhara, definitely was one of the highlights. 🙂

    http://wanderingjatin.com/2015/06/04/jaisalmer-a-family-roadtrip/

  21. I am sure Jatin…the place and the mystery around it makes it a highlight alright.

  22. I had read about this village only last year and thought about visiting it. But did not get a chance to. You well written post made me visit it virtually 🙂

  23. Thanks a ton Shilpi… am glad that at least you managed to see it in some way. 🙂

  24. This looks like a movie set, but much more interesting! You find the coolest places 🙂

  25. Thank you Guys, I don't know if I find these places or they find me 🙂

  26. Well written! I read a lot of posts about Kuldhara but your story sums up everything. Thanks for the detailed yet chrisp information: )

  27. 2traveldads

    I did a search for ghost towns and this came up! Which I love, but is so different than what we’re visiting in Colorado today. So cool and beautiful! I would love to visit Kuldhara.

    • 🙂 Thanks Rob. Kuldhara is fascinating for the fact that no one has any answers 🙂 It is like a quest

  28. Yeah I heard about this too. There was one Bollywood film shot in this town. The cover pic is very nice. Thanks for posting. Thinking of visiting this place, along with another ghost town called BHANGARH, also in Rajasthan.

    • I have heard of Bhangarh and wanted to visit the same in this trip. Unfortunately fell short of time. Keeping it for next time 🙂

  29. This is definitely eerie. My post is below yours on Travel Blogs Promotion and my post talks about Kuldhara too! Loved the post, what else can I say! 😀 Wish to explore Bhangarh as well but a friend went there recently and as it is in the daytime, there was nothing eerie 🙂

    • I would still want to do Bhangarh. Hope to do it some day. Kuldhara was a mystery and continues to be. Someday hope someone can solve it.

  30. Wow, this really does look spooky! Your shots and descriptions make me all the more curious! I’ve been hearing of a few ghost towns that I’d love to visit and I might just add this one to the list. Thank you for a great post!

  31. I’ve been here! Agree that it’s a very evocative place to visit, with a very real sense of the eerie supernatural in its atmosphere. Thanks for providing the two separate accounts of why the village was abandoned – I think I prefer the first one. I’m a bit of a romantic at heart 😉

    • Me too…I like the first one better. But well, who knows what is the truth. Someday hope to know.

  32. Kuldhara is really fascinating. The stories behind that town is really what makes it worth visiting.Rajasthan has so many haunted towns with different stories. The ruins in this one have an aura of their own.

  33. Agree these stories of haunted villages sounds so fascinating. We had been to Kuldhara some 3 years back when these structures were still under construction. 83 families disappearing overnight is really huge we really wonder where and how it must have been for them to resettle somewhere else without the knowledge of the king!

    • It really puzzles me everytime i think of it…how they disappeared. I guess some questions are never answered 😀

  34. Kuldhara is such a magical place! I’m fascinated by this magnificent architecture and I hope to see it this year. Very helpful and really informative post 🙂

  35. In most old stories, pretty girls are the reason for everything. I pity the pretty girls of yester years. I am also wondering now where the Paliwal Brahmins vanished too. I love all the photos and the well does look scary.

    • Thanks Soumya. Pretty girls back then did not have such a glam life as one would imagine. The more I visit these places, the more I realize that.

  36. Marlene Marques

    This is such a crazy place. Kind of makes us wonder how it was like when it was fully inhabited. Of course, when I read that there are ghost stories or paranormal activity, I have some doubts about a visit. But I guess going during the day, with the sun high, can help. 😉

  37. What a fascinating place! Usually, I avoid going to doomed places or Ghost tours on my trips but I really liked the beautiful architecture of traditional Kuldhara’s balcony!

    • Doomed places for me make the best of travel stories. 🙂 Hope you get to Kuldhara. I am sure you will not be disappointed.

  38. Ghost towns are so intriguing. And on top of that, those India have such interesting stories besides them. The whole cluster of villages got abandoned to protect one girl!! I feel so much respect for the tribals. I will definitely visit this ghost town when I plan a trip to Jaisalmer

    • I think that is exactly what made me curious about this village. A mystery that still remains. Thanks for stopping by.

  39. Love hearing stories behind the places. And this is a ghost story ;). But i really avoid visiting a ghost palace. Your pictures have beautifully captured the architecture of the building.

    • It is fine to get there in the morning. I definitely would recommend a visit here. It is fascinating.

  40. I love the history behind this! Ancient stories of ultimatums and abandonment. Your photos are really beautiful as well!

    • Thank you Dane. I think these stories is what makes the place so attractive. Glad you liked the post.

  41. travellingslacker

    Although I visited Jaisalmer, I missed out on the nteriors of the desert. I have heard many stories about Kuldhara but I guess I will have to wat for the next winter. BTW Did you come accross any paranormal activty? 😛

  42. I wish I would have known about this place when I visited Jaisalmer. For some reason, Jaisalmer still remains one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to in India. I have spent a few days there and I would have loved to go to Kuldhara as well. I like legends and stories and I would have walked through the ruins and imagine the layout of the houses, same as you did.

    • Am sure you will enjoy this place. It throws more questions than answers. Thanks Joanna for stopping by.

  43. This is so neat! I’ve always been fascinated by ghost towns. It’s especially great when there’s a story behind why it was abandoned. Thanks for sharing the backstory! Wonderful photos, as always!

  44. I didnot enter the village but have heard similar stories. Good that Rajasthan Tourism is doing its part to revive tourism there.

  45. Lovely pictures. Whatever may be the reason for abandonment of this towns but it is quite fascinating for me. i want to explore this town. And good to know that Rajasthan Tourism is making efforts to revive this place. One more thing did you find any paranormal activity there?

  46. Oh I love mysterious places like that! Really beautiful photos! Must be so spooky when it gets darker 🙂

    • I suppose it must be. Possibly that is why it is not allowed to enter here after 6

  47. Interesting story. Would love to visit the place for the curiosity. Is it possible to stay there overnight? Camping or something like that? Or its the government of Rajasthan who doesn’t allow it?

    • Nope, the place closes down by 6 pm and you are chased out 🙂 Makes you more curious right?

Would love to know what you think