Discover the Ghost Town of Kuldhara

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Rajasthan | 114

It was one of my most awaited destinations in Jaisalmer. The haunted Kuldhara village intrigued me with its strange story – one where a hustling town was reduced to rubble, where walls still shared their stories & restless souls wandered in the abandoned streets. A medley of emotions hit me as I took my first step into this ghost town. These are best described as below:

  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.

Kuldhara - the haunted village in India

From the first time that I had heard of this village in Jaisalmer, I was gripped. It was an unsolved mystery that I needed to see for myself. Kuldhara always left me with a lot of questions.

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

The hope of finding answers to these made this village an uncompromisable destination for me. I am pretty sure that once I share my experience, it will add itself to your list of things to do in Jaisalmer. It is bound to bring out the Indiana Jones in you!

Wondering what else you can do in Jaisalmer? Read through this post that showcases the best places to visit in Jaisalmer.

Story of Kuldhara Village

Ruins of the Kuldhara Village

The story of Kuldhara starts with the settlement of Paliwal Brahmins. They are a tribe that flourished in trade and were well settled here over several generations. 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. While leaving they cast a curse on the village of Kuldhara that no one will ever be able to inhabit the place. Therein, starts the story of the ghost town.

Ghost Town of Kuldhara in Jaisalmer

Another version of this story available online is that Salim Singh increased the taxes on the village. He raised them to a point that the villagers could not take the load. They hence, abandoned Kuldhara village overnight. Yet another rational reason states that the village faced a severe famine and thus, was left behind by the Paliwal Brahmins.

It wasn’t the 2nd and the 3rd explanation that held my interest. I could not get over the first one – it just seemed so mysterious . I wanted to know if there was any truth at all in that explanation. Did Salim Singh actually, ruin an entire village for a girl? And with that on my mind, I set off for Kuldhara.

Heading to Kuldhara Village

Entrance to ghost town of Kuldhara, Rajasthan

3 centuries later, I found myself heading 18 km away from Jaisalmer – towards Sam Desert. As I entered the gates of the Kuldhara Village, 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. The lack of people frankly, added to the mystique of the place. 

Ruins of various homes in Kuldhara

As I walked along the roads, all I saw were ruins. Homes that had decayed and fallen, dusty roads and overgrown shrubs were pretty much the scenario. I ventured into a few of these- to figure out the layout. All the while I kept wondering, what would it have been like when the Paliwal Brahmins actually lived here. Where would the kitchen have been, who would have lived in this room, what would have been the view from these windows etc… the questions kept popping in my head – adding further mystery to this town.

Exploring a reconstructed home of Kuldhara

Reconstructed house in Kuldhara

My travel companions and I reached a set of re-constructed homes. These were being re-created by the Rajasthan tourism is trying to emulate the homes before Kuldhara Village fell to its decline. 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.

Inside a reconstructed home of Kuldhara Village

This is where we met this little boy, who self-appointed himself as our guide. He insisted that since his parents are from thereabouts and he knew every little story, legend and nook and corner of this town. He re-affirmed the story of Kuldhara village after adding that the elders in the village did not go with the rest of the families owing to their age. They slowly died in the village, leaving behind the curse. According to him, the reason for their leaving was the story of Salim Singh falling for the village belle!

Balconies of the reconstructed houses

While he shared his version of the story, we explored the rest of the house – taking in the views from the terrace, the balconies and various rooms. He insisted that we go atop that building to see a small temple-like structure. This might have been a shrine but apparently was a feature of only the important homes.

The traditional artistic Balconies of a home in Kuldhara

Our little guide told us that the restoration team was trying to piece together the same designs that existed 300 years back. The typical Jharokha styled windows, the intricated carvings around the doors, the open kitchen and the multi-floored homes.

He also told us that 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 one can still see on their visit.

Other Significant Ruins of Kuldhara Village

A Pavilion at Kuldhara Village of Jaisalmer

Walking away from the reconstructed house, I stumbled upon a few significant ruins that gave clues to the village of yester-years. Like this pavilion which was possibly the village shelter. Further down the twisted lanes, I came across a huge step well that lay abandoned . While there was no restriction on entering the same, somehow the state of disrepair told me to exercise caution and avoid being too adventurous.

Steep Step well at Kuldhara

Ahead of the step well, was 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. 

A deep well in Kuldhara

Amid the various wells around this area of Kuldhara, I found these artistic poles, erected in honor of the dead. In other words, these were cenotaphs of Kuldhara Village, possibly representing the village elders or headmen.

When it comes to cenotaphs, you got to see the Royal Cenotaphs of Jaisalmer. The Bada Bagh will thrill you with its beauty.

Cenotaph at Kuldhara Village

Below the beautiful carvings of the Hindu deities was a strange text that indicated the dates 1217 CE. After a bit of research, I realize that the text was in Devali, paying tribute to the person who died in that particular year.

Devali Inscription on Cenotaph at Kuldhara Village, Rajasthan

There wasn’t anything more our little guide could point out to. It was as if the whispers of the crumbling walls had ceased. They say that they are even more active in the nights when the ghosts of the past roam around this abandoned village. There have been reports of inexplicable lights and sounds within the village.

I might have wanted to stay back to check that. Maybe then, I might have known –

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…

Or maybe not. I guess, I may never know the answer but it is precisely the reason why this place will always remain intriguing for me.  I bid goodbye to my little guide with a small tip and set out feeling incomplete. I might return for another adventure here or maybe you can get me some of your ghostly stories by sharing your adventure in Kuldhara in the comments below. Or maybe, you might like an even more ghostly site –Bhangarh – one that I hope I can get to soon!

How to get to Kuldhara Village?

  • Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, is the closest town to Kuldhara. It is 18 km 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.

Where to stay?

  • The best place to stay around Kuldhara is the main Jaisalmer city. There are plenty of hotels in Jaisalmer that can fit any kind of budget that you have. 
  • Another option is to head out for a desert stay in Sam Desert. You can stay in tents and enjoy an overnight in the cool dunes of Rajasthan.

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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