Deeply tucked away in Rajasthan’s craggy Aravalli range, the ghost town of Bhangarh has long been touted as the most haunted place in India. The city is believed to have been abandoned due to a curse, and a rumor of ghoulish activity in Bhangarh has kept the place deserted for centuries.
The most popular myth states that there was once a beautiful princess, Ratnavati, who was being groomed for marriage. A local sorcerer was enamored by Ratnavati’s beauty, and devised a plan to meet her. One day, he ran into one of her bearers in the local market, who was purchasing hair oil for the princess. The sorcerer secretly put a spell on the oil so that the moment Ratnavati applied it to her scalp she would be magically transported to his home. Little did he know that the princess was also well-versed in the dark arts and was able to detect that the liquid was enchanted. She immediately poured the oil onto a large slab of stone, causing the rock to fly into the air and straight to the sorcerer’s dwelling, where it crushed him to death. He used his last breaths to curse Bhangarh and its residents. When Ratnavati told her father what had happened, the king deduced that the rulers of the nearby rival city of Ajabgarh had put the sorcerer up to his mischief and declared war. No life was spared and while Ajabgarh was later repopulated (as it remains to this day), Bhangarh was damned to permanent isolation.
These days, Bhangarh is run by the government of India as a tourist site, attracting a primarily domestic crowd. Many visitors have heard about the myth, but most come simply to explore the ruins, which are pretty interesting whether or not you believe in ghosts. The entryway to the complex is flanked with the remains of what were once storefronts and are marked with signs explaining what was where in the days of yore. As you continue along Bhangarh’s main road, the crumbling ruins soon give way to groves of old banyan trees, whose long root-like branches add to the site’s mystique. However, what really makes the place seem haunted is the main palace, an old, ruined hilltop structure that’s been partially overgrown by weeds that rattle every time the wind passes through.
Those who live near the old city claim that magicians practice black magic at Bhangarh late at night, or that it’s a meeting place for genies. Whether or not this is true, it’s a fascinating place to visit, if only to discover through the sites extensive ruins how people in rural Rajasthan lived hundreds of years ago.