Its probably the official board of Archaeological Survey of India and the appearance on numerous listicles of ‘The most Haunted places’ on internet which have hyped up the spooky flavor of the 16thcentury Bhangarh Fort. Interestingly the ASI board at the site merely says that the entry into the premises of the fort are prohibited before sunrise and after sunset but this has been interpreted or conveniently misinterpreted as a warning that the fort is home to unfriendly nocturnal ghosts and spirits so one needs to steer clear.
Accessible both from Alwar (75 kms) and Jaipur (80 kms) the Bhangarh fort is located in the desolate village of Bhangarh. The ancient township of Bhangarh was founded by Raja Bhagwant the then ruler of Amber. A look at the ruins clearly indicates that the fort must have once been a resplendent structure though now only four storeys of the six storeyed fort remain. At the entrance amidst the ruins is an intact temple which is operational . It is important that you carry water and refreshments from the town itself as nothing is available in the fort premises. Alternatively there is a lady from the village at the gate who very affectionately offers you water from an earthen pot swearing by the purity of the water source. If you get talking with her there are chances that she will offer you the services of a guide (probably one of her many sons) to accompany you.
There are several stories each more beguiling than the previous explaining how disaster hit the once flourishing town of Bhangarh. Our self styled guide who voluntarily accompanied us was probably well aware of customer expectations and picked up the most entertaining and scandalous tale which he narrated in his own melodramatic style as he guided us through the ruins. Ratnavati the beautiful princess of Bhangarh fell in love with a commoner which was resisted by her father the king. Fearing for the life of her lover Ratnavati consented marriage as per her fathers wishes to the King of Bhangarh. Ratnavatis lover followed her to Bhangarh as a tantric and their affair continued. He lived on the mountain behind the fort. The structure referred to as the ‘Tantrics Chattri’ still exists and if one has the stamina one can walk up to it to get a birds eye view of the fort complex. Rani Ratnavati now the queen of Bhangarh continued to clandestinely meet her lover. The King came to know of the affair and ordered the beheading of the couple. Seeing her lover beheaded before her eyes Ratnavati cursed the town of Bhangarh to doom before being burnt alive herself. It is believed that the spirits of Ratnavati and her lover still haunt the fort.
We never came across the spirit of the princess or tantric but we did witness a local tantric in action. The tantric was thronged by hordes of people who had come to him to get “unpossessed by the spirits which had possessed them” The tantric apparently was some expert at driving away evil spirits but ironically he was not skilled enough to drive away the spirits of Ratnavati and her lover from the fort.
As you move around the complex you catch a very pleasant fragrance of ‘kewda’ coming from kewda forest which exists within the complex. The kewda forest, gardens a small water body and of course the remains of the fort create an ambience fit for visitors who would like to spend a leisure winter afternoon basking in the sun.
Just as you exit the fort complex the artist or photographer in you is bound to catch sight of an anonymous monument which probably is the tomb of some important person of the bygone era who is now lost in history. There is no track as such leading to the structure but if you can be adventurous enough and cut through the fields and thorny bushes to reach it you are sure to capture some good shots in beautiful hues specially if its sun set time.
Whatever be the truth of Bhangarh its important that the locals keep the folk lore of ghosts and spirits alive and continue to create a mysterious aura as this is what draws tourists and gets their ‘cursed ‘ village to get noticed.