Situated in the Rajgarh area under the Alwar district of Rajasthan, Bhangarh fort lies just at the border of the Sariska Tiger Reserve.
By Monidipa Dey,
The name Bhangarh is well known among those who live in Alwar and the NCR area. Often termed as the bhootiya garh or the haunted fort, with innumerable tales of spooky sounds and ghostly sightings which, if nothing else, further adds to the thrill of the revellers that arrive in loaded cars for a short daylong weekend trip to this rather isolated fort.
Situated in the Rajgarh area under the Alwar district of Rajasthan, Bhangarh fort lies just at the border of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. Built in the 17th century, this fort stands as a testimony to the architectural styles of those times, and tales of mass immigration mixed with folklores.
Built by the Kachwaha ruler of Amber, Raja Bhagwant Singh in 1573 CE, this fort was to serve as a residence for his younger son Madho Singh. His elder son Man Singh was the highly celebrated general in the court of Akbar. Madho Singh’s son was Chatr Singh, who was succeeded by his son Ajab Singh; and the popular folklores associated with this fort starts with the two children of Chatr Singh, Ajab Singh and Ratnavati.
As per one story, a sorcerer with powers to perform black magic fell in love with the princess Ratnavati, who was famed for her beauty and genial nature. Knowing that his chances were otherwise nil to get the princess’s love and attention, he tried casting a spell on her through a perfume that her maid bought from the fort market. However, Ratnavati somehow became aware of his nefarious plans and threw away the bottle. The curse in the perfume backfired and killed the sorcerer. Before dying he however cursed the princess and all others living inside the fort. The very next year a war started, which eventually led to the death of the princess and the Bhangarh fort residents. The other folklore speaks of a sadhu named Balu Nath who lived on the hilltop where the fort was built, and his request was that a shadow should never fall on his dwelling. However, Ajab Singh disobeyed this request and built columns that caused a shadow to fall on the sadhu’s house. The sadhu’s curse subsequently led to the fort turning into a ruin, and it has remained as such until date.
Historically, however it is more likely that after Chatr Singh’s death in 1630 people started immigrating to the Ajabgarh fort, built by Ajab Singh, for a better livelihood. Later in 1720 as the the Mughal Empire started declining, Raja Jai Singh II (grandson of Man Singh) forcibly annexed the Bhangarh fort, perhaps causing further immigration, and in 1783 a devastating famine forced those remaining to move out and seek greener pastures.
The Bhangarh fort now holds the ruins of the palace, bazaar, and other broken structures. There are many intact temples standing within the fort premises that are functional, such as the Hanuman temple, Gopinath temple, Someswara temple, and two devi temples, and one can spent quite some time admiring their beauty. The ruined palace and the bazaars can create an eerie feeling making one feel uneasy, but perhaps it’s only because of the folklores that keep playing in the mind.
The Ajagbarg village that is situated quite close by, also holds a palace of which only the walls now remain. There are many beautiful abandoned havelis in Ajabgarh that are somehow still standing, and one can easily spend half a day walking through the streets exploring these houses. Part of the village is still inhabited and a temple from the times of Ajab Singh still stands, with crumbling remains of the town walls showing that it was once a forted area, much like the Bhangarh fort. The entire area presents a beautiful landscape with the low rolling Aravalli ranges and scrub forests, and makes for a perfect road drive especially during the winter months.
Travel tips: the two ASI sites of Bhangarh and Ajabgarh are located close to Jaipur and Sariska, and once can easily start early in the morning and cover both the places by day end. Bhangarh can be reached within one and half hours from both Jaipur and Sariska, and the easiest way to reach is by a car. Best time to travel is during the winters.
(The author is a well-known travel and heritage writer. All images provided by the author. Views expressed are personal.)