India’s Haunted Fort

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About 150 miles southwest of New Delhi lies what is often called one of the most haunted places in India. The spooky fort town of Bhangarh has been a ruin for a thousand years, and legend has it, when the sun falls, the ghosts start to come out.

An official sign from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) outside the area warns visitors not to enter at night. According to one translation of the Hindi sign, it roughly says: “Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited. Legal action would be taken against anybody that does not follow these instructions."

Of course, some might argue that most monuments, especially centuries-old ruins, warn visitors that wandering around at night is considered trespassing. Even city parks close at dusk. But that doesn’t keep some people from whispering (or more blogging) rumors about what might be the real reason for the sign: restless spirits.

People lived in and around Bhangarh, then known as Nagara or Karkotanagara, until the 10th century CE, according to the ASI. The capital city was quite prosperous between the second and fourth centuries CE, and archaeologists have found thousands of coins from the Malava Republic there amongst the temples, palaces, and markets. The ASI made quite a few restorations to the fort in 2009, but it retains some of its eerie abandoned aesthetic.

One legend holds that a holy man named Balu Nath put a curse on the city. He had approved the construction of a fort near his quiet retreat only if no building ever cast a shadow on his home. But years later, the descendants of the emperor who struck this agreement with Balu Nath broke the agreement, and the palace grew taller. When the construction project cast Balu Nath’s home in shadow, he destroyed the town.

Another legend involves a princess who upset a wizard. This magical figure lusted after the princess, and attempted to slip her maid a potion of black magic at the market one day. But she realized his intent, and threw the potion upon a nearby boulder, which, under the spell, rolled over the magician. As he died, he cursed the town. The town was subsequently ransacked by an invading army, and all 10,000 inhabitants died.

Whether or not the ancient city is now home to spirits trapped by an eternal curse, you probably shouldn’t go stumbling around on 1000-year-old ruins after dusk, lest you break a leg, destroy a priceless ancient temple, or get chased away by an evil spirit with an axe to grind.

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