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The Ghost Town: Kuldhara

The deserted village of Kuldhara has a fascinating story from the past but you really will not see any ghost connections here…

On a trip to Jaisalmer, when I was about to make a mandatory trip to the desert, I discovered that Sam Dunes could be reached driving through Kuldhara. As I had always wanted to see this place, I decided instantly to take a detour before proceeding to the dunes and it was among my most memorable experiences of the trip.

"This is a ghost town, it was abandoned over 200 years ago," said our driver. That statement was met with varied reactions among our small group of three. While one of our companions was scared, one more was cynical, and I had a sense of disbelief. This was the place where the Paliwal Brahmins used to reside and is located on the edge of the Thar Desert. Known for being well known for their techniques of irrigation, there were at many families that used to live in the 84 villages around this place. The ruling diwan Salim Singh was cruel and known to be power hungry as well as had a roving eye. On one of his outings he saw one of the young girls of the village and wanted to marry her. The entire village of pious Brahmins was horrified at the thought. When the diwan's men came to fetch the girl, they were asked to come the next morning and then deserted the village overnight. While there is no record of where they went, it is said that the girl in question became a victim of honor killing and it is her spirit that is believed to haunt this village. It is also said that the Paliwal Brahmins cursed that the village will always remain abandoned and by a strange quirk of fate this place has never been inhabited since.

The village has a gate that is manned by a security person and once we enter all we see are a lot of exposed brick buildings – many in ruins. Walking around the village there is a sense of stark emptiness it almost feels like no one lived here. And just when I started thinking all the ruins are the same, I discovered a multi storied home. This home also had a central courtyard and had several tourists who were more interested in taking selfies rather than observing the small corners of the home. This building in fact has some interesting architectural elements like beautiful arches on the upper level and small floral motifs. A small stairway leads us to the upper level which gave us a stunning aerial view of the entire village. Enthused, I walk around now looking for other buildings and soon enough I stumble on a dome like structure that was probably a place of worship, but no one can say for sure. I also see a house that has motifs of deer and lion on either side of the entrance etched on the bricks walls as well as a four layered decorated panel on one of the homes that has a figurine of Ganesha in the center. There is very sparse vegetation here that adds a small bit of colour to this place. While I was here my thoughts kept going back to the villagers who left this place overnight. What you cannot miss however is a sense of poignancy that the place has which is probably why people still throng the village to see its ruins to reconnect with a past that has more questions than answers.

- Text and images: Bindu Gopal Rao

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