All about Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan

An easy and pleasure driving of around six hours from Pushkar had brought us before Bhangarh fort,which had its fame as the most haunted place in Asia. Travellers had been warned by various websites about not to remain in that fort after sunset. It was already 04 pm. So, anticipating the urgency due to closure of the gate when the sun sets in a short while, we entered the fort through Hanuman Gate immediately after parking the car in the designated parking lot.

There was a Hanuman Temple situated just to the right of the main gate. Due to its proximity to the temple, the gate was named as “Hanuman Gate”. The first thought that came to mind as to why that temple was there. Was it really a haunted place? I just chided my son, Ruchir to start praying so that we return to safety before the sun sets. Ruchir was never interested to visit that place thinking it as weird. But I was. I had read so many articles about that place and I wanted to see it. Later, we came to know that there were four other gates on the outer perimeter of the fort complex. They were Delhi Gate, Ajmeri gate, Lahori gate and Phulbari gate. The nomenclature pattern of those gates reminded us of the gates constructed by the Mughals in their cities.

Hanuman Temple at the gate

Hanuman Temple at the gate


The Mughal connection is attributed to the relationship of Sawai Madho Singh, the ruler of Bhangarh in 16th Century with Raja Mansingh I, who was a general in Akbar’s army. These two chieftains were brother. Their father Bhagwant Singh was the ruler of Amber. This Mughal association is believed to be continued till the death of Aurangjeb. When the Mughal empire weakened, Bhangarh was attacked by Jaishingh II in 1720 AD. Later, a famine broke out in 1783 AD, which forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. However, history apart, the fort premises had the reputation of the haunted place till recent years. And, such reputation became the main reason for the tourist to flow in that sleepy village.

At the first sight, it seemed that the ruins of the fort and residential buildings were scattered all over the place, which makes it difficult to see the important places without any guide. Realising the same, the Archaeological Survey of India had put a reasonably good guide map there. I tried to decipher that map, but could not succeed in the first attempt. I started feeling that such maps could be used only after one visited all over the place and returned to the map only to understand what was what. Anyway, with the help of subsequent attempts at the map, we proceeded towards what was once the jewellery market.

The Guide map of the entire fort premises

The Guide map of the entire fort premises

The ruins of the Jewellery Market were situated along the both side of the narrow lane on which we were walking. The Jewellery market was like a shopping complex of that era. Double storied shops were lined up adjacent to each other. The upper storey and the ceiling had fallen down in all the shops except one. It was the place where the queens and princesses of the royalty would have thronged in the era bygone. Standing in those ruins, I was trying to imagine the scene traders would have left one by one and the last of the traders would be closing his shop and was about to leave the fort. It is also possible that marauding army of the victorious king would be looting and killing the traders one by one. That would be awfully painful. Those painful souls must have roamed around their beloved shops for centuries. Is not painful for someone who establishes his kingdom at a place and then lives to see his people leaving one by one?

Ruins of the Jewellery Market

Ruins of the Jewellery Market

The path between the Jewellery Market also curved a little and ended near another building, named “Dancer’s Haveli”. The three-storied building, where dancers used to live and perform, was completely in ruins. But the presence of an imposing building totally dedicated to dancers indicated the importance of those dancers in the cultural life of that era. Standing before that haveli, I started thinking about the fate of those dancers, when they decided to leave. Was it that they were snatched away by the victorious army or did they leave out of their own sweet will?

Ruins of the Dancers’ haveli

Ruins of the Dancers’ haveli

We could reach upto the dancer’s haveli, when two young kids started stalking us. They wanted to show us around against a fee of Rs.100/-. They were two friends who were playing the role of guides. The kids were looking playful but sincere, so I hired their services. As per the version of those kids, ruins situated besides the dancer’s haveli was the two storied residence of the then Priest. That amused me a lot. What a combination that was, the priest was the immediate neighbour of the dancers! But, my imagination was on the scene when even priest of the city decided to leave the city. How could the royalty survived from the shock when the priest would have requested their permission to leave the city? They must have permitted his requested with tears in their eyes. Or, was it that he was not spared by the army?

Ruins of the priest’s residence

Ruins of the priest’s residence

Soon, we came in front of an imposing temple of Gopi-Krishna constructed on a high platform in the side of a big compound. A flight of stone staircase brought me to the Mandapam of that temple. Inside the mandapam, the Krishna’s 16-virtues were depicted. The small statues of Lord Krishna playing musical instruments, viz. Dholak, Veena etc. are some of the 16-virtues (Solah Kalayein) performed by the Lord Krishna. Someone would have taken keen interest in the construction of that temple. When did the royalty would have performed their last prayers? How painful it must have been to visit the family deity for the last time to seek its benevolence before deciding to leave the city forever? How many men would have tightened their upper lips with a slight tint of tears in their eyes before stepping down the stairs of that magnificent temple for the last time?

Gopi Krishna temple

Gopi Krishna temple

The next building, at the back of the Gopi-Krishna Temple, was a Chhatri enclosed in its own compound. Our kid-guides could not tell the actual origin of this structure. “It was for a very important person”, they said and proceeded ahead. Their main interest was to take us to the ruins of the palace. Behind the Chhatri and at the slope of a hill, the palace of Bhangarh was situated. The strategic location of this small palace impressed me. The sun was setting beyond these hills. It meant that for a marauding army coming from the west side, the palace was completely invisible till they would have crossed over the Hill. The east side also get lot of rains too, which was a necessity for surviving in those barren lands.

Suddenly, we saw a small temple-like construction on the top of the adjoining hill. It was reported to be the residence of the Tantrik, who put a curse on the city. The story goes like this. The princess of Bhangarh, Rani Ratnavati, was ultra-beautiful. One day, when she had gone to the market, the Tantrik saw her. He immediately fell in love and wanted to marry her. But she was not interested to marry a tantric. Tantrik tried to seduce her with a spell cast in her oil. But the princess, who was well-versed in Tantra-Vidya foiled his plan by throwing the oil. The oil turned everything into stone and the tantric was also crushed. But before he died, the tantric cursed the place and its inhabitants and all were ruined. The kids also said that a tunnel was there in those times to connect the palace to the Tantrik’s hut. Who knows!

Tantrik’s haveli on the top of the hill

Tantrik’s haveli on the top of the hill

It was not easy to climb upto the entrance of the royal palace. The approach was very steep and stones were slippery. It must have been good for elephants, but for normal soldiers, it must be a tough task. Is it true that the people in those times were sturdier? The slope was so steep that it left us mildly out of breath. A thought was always prevailing in our minds that we were about to enter the most haunted place. The palace is said to be 7-storied, but only 4 stories still survives. No one knows the real cause of such destruction that left the entire city ruined. But, there is another story. It goes like this. There lived a guru, named as “Baalu Nath”. He had blessed the city when it was constructed. However, he had put one condition that the shadows of the city should never touch his house. So, when the palace outgrew and reached to seventh storey, its shadow started touching Guru’s house. Immediately, his powers destroyed the entire city with no possibility of re-construction. Whoom! Phew!

The Bhangarh royal palace

The Bhangarh royal palace

With our kid-guides in tow, we climbed upto the highest point on that palace, from where three successive fortifications could be seen even to this day. A watch-tower still exists in the outer-most fortification. At one of the surviving chamber in the palace, smells of bats were coming. That was the only place, where some kind of creepy feeling came into my mind. The kids-guides were confident though. They told us that all the souls have left the city and it has become just like another tourist spot. The palace was completely ruined. After each rainy season, some portion would got damaged. Rocks, slabs and marble columns were scattered at many places in the palace compound. How many antique items would have stolen from there?

The ruins of the fortification

The ruins of the fortification

But the chamber, where swastika mark had been put, was most important. As per our kid-guides, it was the same chamber, where Rani Ratnavati used to live. Still, the locals pay their reverence to this chamber of Rani Ratnavati. The swastika mark on the walls was the indication of that respect.

The Chamber of Rani Ratnavati with our kid-guides

The Chamber of Rani Ratnavati with our kid-guides

Standing there, again I started to visualise the last prince and last princess, who would have left the palace for the last time. It was the place where they had lived and played all their lives. It was the place where they had their fun and frolics. How did the royalty take the decision to leave for the unknown future? How did they leave their regular retinue of helps and sentries and left for some other place never to return here? Who would have been the last patriarch who took that responsibility to transport the entire family through the forest to a distant place? Or, was it that none were spared by the marauding army and put to painful death? Anyway, with multiple thoughts and also little gloom, we came out of the palace.

A step-well was nearby. Actually, it was a combination of a fountain, big step well and a small step well. Snakes were swimming in the water of smaller step well. The kids informed that bigger well had bigger snakes. Two overly-drunk boys, who fell into the well, immediately died of drowning as well as snake-bite. After that, an attempt was made to barricade the perimeters of the well. But the barbed wire was broken at many points. People could still accidently fall into this well. It was also astonishing that the well had survived for 450 years.

Step well that still contains water

Step well that still contains water

Next to the step-well was the “Someshwara Temple” dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva was the cherished deity for our two kid-guides. They informed us that the locals used to visit that temple for worshipping the deity with the flowers of Kewda. Those aromatic flowers are also used as spices. Incidentally, lots of Kewda plants (Screwpine) were there in the vicinity. A boy was also selling these flowers for using as aromatic flowers or as spices. Someshwara Temple was built on the Nagara style of temple architecture. Since, it was still being used by the locals; they had kept it very clean and on working condition. We felt very nice standing there.

Someshwara temple

Someshwara temple

The sun was setting at Bhangarh. Throughout our stay at Bhangarh, Ruchir kept looking at the position of the sun. In no way, he wanted to be caught in the wrong side of the time. So, after visiting all the major monuments of an abandoned fort and palace, he started insisting to leave. Soon, the sheet of darkness would prevail there and then no mankind would enter the fort. But once, a group of journalists had spent a night at this place to prove or to find about the truth. They all returned unharmed. So, the myth was broken at that time. But who knows, whether they were spared!

After coming out of the Bhangarh ruins, I took a very wrong decision to return to Delhi through the State Highway 29A via Tehla till Sariska. The area was well forested. At one point of the road, we saw three foxes crossing the road the moment before we passed. They moved so swiftly before my eyes that I had not time to stop the car for taking their pictures.

An evening on the state highway through forest

An evening on the state highway through forest

The first three hours of driving was spent in the most horrible road conditions on the State Highway 29A till Sariska and then on State Highway 25A till Rajgarh. There was no road at all. We were in a forest and there was total darkness. There was no way one could drive at more than 20 kilometers an hour. In fact for two hours, we were in jungle, on a bad road, in total darkness except the car lights and without any human population. Our heart shuddered when any vehicle passed by us.

Sigh of relief when Alwar came to sight

Sigh of relief when Alwar came to sight

It was about 10.30 pm at night when Alwar came to sight. From Alwar to Delhi is another 160 kilometers through Bhiwani. One and half our later, I was just 40 kilometers away from Gurgaon. I had never loved Gurgaon so much before that day. The signboard showing Gurgaon 40 kilometers was really a confidence-booster. From Gurgaon, we hit the National Highway 08 at about 01.30 am. There was so much traffic on the highway that my heart sank. It took us about two hours to cover the distance of 40 kilometers and we reached home by 03.30 am. Ohh! What a drive it was. From Pushkar to Delhi, we had covered a little over 500 kilometers. But the memory of driving into the vicinity of Sariska forest at night will always remain in my mind. Anyway, I will never recommend that route to anyone till it is repaired. I still feel that some benevolent soul of the Bhangarh ruins protected us throughout the journey that night.

17 Comments

  • Prasad Np says:

    Wow you sure had an adventure, a spooky fort, a drive through a jungle. Very well written with good pictures. Bhangarh is on my wishlist for some time.. now I want to go there even more. But one thing is sure I will leave much before sunset :)

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Sir

      Thank you very much for your excellent comments.

      Yes.. It will be wise to leave that place early so as to reach Delhi or Jaipur before dark.

      Regards

  • I have heard a lot of stories about Bhangarh fort and few weeks ago there was live cast during night on Zee news. Today with your this post, I virtually visited the fort. Nice writeup and good pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    That is indeed a very very long drive. I so agree that it must have been the benevolent souls of Bhangarh.

    I have not been to this fort but heard/read a lot. Who knows what is true. Your log is definitely going to help people in understanding the place better.

    Auro wrote his side , may be a good read.

    http://www.ghumakkar.com/demystifying-bhangarh/

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Sir

      Thanks for your message. Yes.. that drive through the state highway in dark was insane.

      The mystery of the fort will be there for some time.

      Yes. I have gone through the post on demystifying Bhangarh, which is very good.

      Regards

  • Anupam says:

    Very well written Udai! It is also in my wish list. Yes, I too have seen that telecast in Zee TV. I wish to reach there much before the sun sets BUT would like to remain there at least two more hours after the sun set :-)

    Good information and will be helpful for all of us. Thanks for sharing.

  • sarthakc says:

    What an adventurous trip you had and described it effectively making the reader experience the same. Well written travelogue.

    Happy Ghumakkari!

  • Pamela says:

    nice post Uday… this place is in my tour list ;)

  • shayam says:

    Dear Uday,

    I just returned from a trip to Sariska. We started from Ranthambore around late evening. My GPS charted the route through SH29A through Tehla village via the Sariska national park. The road upto Tehla was a fantastic night drive. Then our GPS asked me to take left turn and after a short distance (200 meters) we hit the entry gate of sariska. This was closed – and no entry. I was absolutely annoyed with my GPS that it chose a bad and closed route. I was stranded at this gate around 10:30pm in the night.

    Did you travel through this gate and exit from other side of Sariska national park (to join the Alwar-Jaipur road?) I do not know why it was not possible to travel through this route. I thought that GPS does not know if this route is closed.

    Later, I traveled through Tehla-Rajgarh-Mala Khera-Natni Ka Bara reaching Sariska late night at 12 pm.

    Shyam

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Shyam

      The gate was closed for us too. The GPS was not working for us too and we were also misled by it. We also had taken right turn from that gate and crossed Rajgarh and Mala Khera to reach Alwar and then proceeded to Delhi.

      How was the road condition at the time of your visit? Do you also feel that the state highway should be avoided during night journey?

  • shayam says:

    Dear Uday,

    It is possible that SH29A will be fully closed for traffic after Sariska is notified to be a national park (which should happen sometime soon). I wonder if we can go through it during day time – can anyone comment on this?

    The road upto Tehla is really nice drive during night (no traffic, road is quite good except in a few places) – I like night driving more than day driving. The road from Tehla to Rajgarh is quite bad for upto 5 kms or so. Later, after crossing the small ghat section it turns bad once again due to ongoing construction. Rajgarh to Mala Khera is another SH and good one. Mala Khera to Natni Ka Bara was quite decent.

    I learnt a big lesson: never trust GPS maps for inter city travels (they may good for within the city) – there is no good alternative to stopping and asking people. I went from Panipat – Rohtak – Rewari and the GPS missed a fantastic and new road – the mapmyindia maps were completely off track for this road. I would have gone through the cities otherwise.

    Best wishes,
    Sham

  • i like your trip very much & i also wish to visit to bhangarh .i like all histrocial places & i have interest in their history.i also share your trip on by blog…..

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