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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this. 
Share the Thrill of Travel

114 Responses

  1. Sri Kri

    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.

    Sriram & Krithiga

  2. Ami Bhat

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

  3. VJ Sharma

    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 🙂

  4. Dale Cody

    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…

  5. Alok singhal

    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.

  6. Richa Singh

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

  7. Saru Singhal

    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.

  8. Ami Bhat

    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

  9. shilpi3005

    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 🙂

  10. nellivagabond

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

  11. 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.

    • Ami

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

  12. Fly With Shaunak

    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.

    • Ami

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

  13. Samarpita Sharma (@write_to_travel)

    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 🙂

    • Ami

      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.

  14. The Spirited Sloth

    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!

  15. Joe

    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 😉

    • Ami

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

  16. Sandy N Vyjay

    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.

  17. Rashmi and Chalukya

    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!

    • Ami

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

  18. Adam Biernat

    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 🙂

  19. Soumya Nambiar

    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.

    • Ami

      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.

  20. 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. 😉

  21. Ana Ojha

    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!

    • Ami

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

  22. Neha Verma

    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

    • Ami

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

  23. TravelPeppy

    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.

    • Ami

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

  24. Dane

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

    • Ami

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

  25. 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? 😛

  26. Joanna

    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.

    • Ami

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

  27. Nerdventurists

    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!

  28. Indrani

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

  29. AllGudThings

    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?

    • Ami

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

  30. awaradiaries

    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?

    • Ami

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

  31. Ankita

    I liked the article but leaving a village instead of handing over the girl seems too far fetched to me. Handing her over as a sacrifice to the village would have been easier and more popular given the patriarchal system in Rajasthan. Maybe the romanticism in the myth is made up.