If you have ever been to Jaisalmer, the world famous tourist spot in Rajasthan, you must have visited the Golden Fort that featured in Satyajit Ray’s “Sonar Kella” or Sam Sand Dunes. But the mysteries of the desert extend beyond the ramparts of the Golden Fort that reverberate the timeless past of Mukul’s previous life that Ray portrayed in his film, and even beyond the spell cast over the mesmerizing dunes by the setting sun. Some 17 km south-west of Jaisalmer lie the ruins of the cursed village of Kuldhara. This village has been abandoned for centuries. Legend holds, the curse put on Kuldhara does not let anyone inhabit in the village ever since it was abandoned.
About 200 years ago Kuldhara used to be a prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. It was then abandoned overnight by all its thousand-odd residents for some unknown reason. But according to a local legend, Salim Singh, the then Diwan of Jaisalmer fell for the beautiful daughter of the village chief and desired to marry her. But of course the Brahmin villagers could not have accepted it. Salim Singh, (in)famous for his debauched lifestyle and unprincipled ways of collecting tax, threatened to prosecute the Kuldhara Brahmins if his wishes were not granted. But the Paliwal Brahmins did not succumb to the tyranny of the tyrant. They held a council and not just the residents of Kuldhara but Brahmins living in some eighty-odd adjacent villages- all the villagers decided to flee, overnight without any notice. So, one dark night all the Brahmins hitherto residing in the villages abandoned their houses and everything within, and never came back. Nobody knows where they went. But before leaving they put a curse on Kuldhara that no one will be able to settle in this village ever again. The buildings have since stood motionless just as they were left, witnessing the passage of time for centuries.
The ruins of hundreds of buildings, almost all of them now roofless, lay scattered in the village. The houses were made of yellow sandstone, the kind of building material you will see everywhere in and near Jaisalmer. There are a few temples in the village. Few of the houses have been restored and redecorated- and you can even climb up the stairs to the roofs of these houses. The view of the vast expanse of the yellow ruins of what once used to be a prosperous village from one such roofs will surely send a chill down your spine. While walking up and down the dusty lanes between the rows of abandoned houses you will surely get one of the eeriest feelings ever. The moment you enter Kuldhara you will feel like you have entered into a whole new world where time has lost its course.
In the early 2010s Indian Paranormal Society sent an 18-member team to Kuldhara which spent 12 hours in the village and later claimed to have experienced a few strange things: mysterious voices, moving shadows and even hand imprints of children on their cars. The spooky stories about Kuldhara earned it a haunted reputation which surely attracts a lot of tourists.
Kuldhara is a heritage site today and is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India. Rajasthan Government has decided to develop it as a tourist spot. So if you plan to go to Jaisalmer do not forget to keep Kuldhara in your places-to-visit list.