By Kamlesh Tripathi
Ghost towns and villages have often held our attention. But simultaneously, they have also unleashed our imagination to some hair-raising and eerie trepidation. So, its character remains quite aloof, from the oppressive ruins of the rich and arrogant castles and fortresses. One such village, nests in Kuldhara. Located in the deep-seated, desert region of Western Rajasthan. Where, when, you stand under the hot striking sun. You might not get to see a single human form till the horizon. In all earnest, such unspeaking and phantom towns and villages may not utter a complaining word. But then they scream about the enduring trauma. Their inhabitants might have undergone and that gives us a chance to peep into their harrowing lives.
Rajasthan brims in the expanse of Thar desert. It has no dearth of ghost villages. That remains almost unpeopled for various reasons. But only a few of them have got as much attention as Bhangarh and Kuldhara. Perhaps, due to the myths attached to them. So, while we were in Jaisalmer. It was only natural for us to undertake the sightseeing of Kuldhara.
It simmers in deep desolate wilderness, at about 18 km, west of Jaisalmer. And it certainly has a story to tell. Where, we came across a young boy named Bhairo Sharma. Who narrated the aghast episode, in an emotional tone. Is when, I reflected after many years. That there was someone doing justice to the forgotten art of storytelling.
It happened some 300 years ago. When, Kuldhara was a prosperous village. Where, Paliwal Brahmins used to reside under the state of Jaisalmer. The story thus throws up a spine-chilling feel. When, the evil eyes of Salim Singh. The all powerful tyrant and debauch Prime Minister of the state. Fell for the daughter of the village head and desired to marry her by force. He then threatened the entire village of grave consequences, if they did not acquiesce to his wishes.
The entire clan of Paliwals then lived in those 85 villages. They forthwith held a council. Where, it was decided, instead of acceding, to the demands of the depraved Prime Minister. They would abandon and leave their village and homeland. To, save the honour and purity of their daughter from the evil eyes of the monster. And soon, they all left for good. But before departing they ordained a powerful curse on Kuldhara. That, after them, no one else shall ever be able to settle and prosper in the village. And from that day onwards the village remains unoccupied, barren and even deserted. It gives an isolated and godforsaken look. Perhaps, quite similar to the unseen yet imagined faces of the residents of those times, that too, centuries ago. It is also believed. People who have attempted to stay here overnight have been haunted away by some strange and abnormal phenomenon.
The parallel story that runs and appears to be as plausible as the first one is. Salim Singh, upon not being obliged by the Paliwals raised the taxes to such an extent. That it became practically unbearable for the local community to survive in the village. So they decided to migrate to greener pastures. However, people are more inclined to believe the first story. That has a tinge of both romance and mysticism in it.
The dilapidated and tale-telling houses and monuments are now maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). One can enter the village only after purchasing tickets. After which you drive along the prime street. That appears to be the main boulevard of the settlement. Where, even now, after centuries one feels gloomy and sad. For there are rows of houses with their roofs fallen. And the ruined walls give a sense of melancholic past. Where, the entire landscape is dry, dusty and sun stricken. That conveys a blaring message of atrocious human upheavels. Even, when, the era denoted happiness through righteousness.
We halted at a location. That appeared to be the hub of the rustic village. Just close by there was a house in good upkeep. We entered to see the rooms that were well maintained. Following the path we even went up the stairs and up to the roof. From where, the entire village was visible. Though, I could not feel any supernatural presence. Yet that element of sombreness struck me while I was there. One could say the animation was missing. Ladies in the group could not withstand the countenance of destruction and slowly walked away. I could even sight an unvisited and left alone temple nearby. Gradually, we cruised past the ruins available in the form of the crumbling walls. For a moment, it gave me a flash of those lives that lived there centuries ago. There was definitely something spine chilling even when everything around was so calm and unmoved. Perhaps, the collective curse of those helpless citizens was still pulsating there. Where, everything was looking so recent. And one got a feel as if someone was calling you from behind those dilapidated houses.
Kuldhara remains a desolate place with forlorn looks. Curses don’t die so soon, they say. The ambience brings across a kind of seeping sadness to your heart. Especially, when, one thinks of the unfortunate people. Who, were forced to leave the land of their forefathers. However the place doesn’t appear to be spooky for any other reason barring the wicked crime spelt in the story.
Even, when, the ASI has taken over the settlement. It remains to be seen if this village will ever flourish. By flourish I mean—will the lineage of the people, who left generations back. Ever come together to salvage their motherland. And last but not the least. Was this a quintessential example of a migration that moved a civilised settlement? My answer would be no.