SO much has been written and told about Bhangarh fort in recent times as the most haunted place of India (some claim to be in Asia) that if you just blindfold somebody and take him or her to a place and whisper in ear that- you are in ‘BHANGARH’ and that person will just get spooked and run out of horror. We did something similar. We didn’t blindfold but kept telling all the way that we are going to some other place (fort) and kept all hints of Bhangarh out of the view of that person. Once we entered the fort and the person came to know about the truth that we were in Bhangarh, we could see the horror written on the face. But with no scope of running for anybody, we continued. Rest all is history and we came out laughing on all the spooky stories of Bhangarh.
With extent of writings on Bhangrah in past many years, ironically when you go on searching for Princess Ratnavati on Google, all initial results take you to ‘haunted’ story of Bhangarh fort, whereas in our childhood, the only Ratnavati we had heard about was the Princess of Jaisalmer who fought bravely against the forces of Alauddin Khilji. But then, we never read about Bhangarh even!
In times of Harry Potters and Vampire Academies, there is always a good market (perhaps it always had been) for spooky stories on haunted places and paranormal activities. Hence the Bhangarh story got a perfect scoop. Mass media has made it more and more spicy, dramatised and indeed thrilling.
What we all are sure about is the documented part of the Bhangarh’s history. That, this was founded by Raja Bhagwant Das of Amber in 16th century. During that time this whole area came under the Amber rule. Bhagwant Das was the close lieutenant of Mughal emperor Akbar and also the elder brother of Akbar’s Rajput queen Jodha Bai. Perhaps from Bhagwant Das came the name Bhangarh. His eldest son Man Singh was the one of the nine jewels of Akbar. Madho Singh was his younger brother and father Bhagwant Das handed over Bhangarh to Madho Singh.
Bhangarh was not just a palace but a fort city. Whatever is left now is just the ruins of what would have been a sprawling city at one point of time. What is now left of the city part is just few temples, old havelis and the main market Johari Bazar, whose name will remind you of its namesake in pink city Jaipur. This city would have been magnificent at its peak with big havelis, palaces, temples, houses, markets. Even the shops in the Johari Bazar were all identical and double storied. The pathway to the palace now passes through this Johari Bazar.
At some point of time the fort city was abandoned and hence got ruined, may be because of some local power struggle leading to a war with nearby rulers. There are some stories about a war between Bhangarh and nearby Ajabgarh. Amidst the ruins emerges a story which everybody would like to tell with a lots of juice.
Ruins like this are always hotbeds for folklores and some paranormal stories. The sad part is that there isn’t much of documented history of Raja Madho Singh (if it is, then not known too much). When there is no proper documentation, then there is every possibility of additions and subtractions in the orals history that passes from generations to generations. History of ruining of Bhangarh has gone through that. Stories of haunt refer to Ratnavati but whereas some people say that she was Madho Singh’s daughter while other say she was Madho SIngh’s wife. In any case, there are two different stories of ruining of Bhangarh and only one can be true and in that race the juicer story of Princess Ratnavati holds the fort. That says that fort ruined due to curse of a black magician (tantrik) who was in love with Ratnavati. I don’t want to detail any of the stories as they are everywhere on the net.
The Bhangarh story is more of abandonment and neglect. The palace was said to be seven storied, whose three stories are completely lost. Rest of it is in ruins and in danger of further irreparable damage due to influx of tourists and bad handling of the property. ASI is probably doing nothing than opening and closing the gates at schedule times. Whole property is left to hundreds of selfie-crazy and haunt-fancied tourists with no sight of any guards anywhere. Inside the palace, there are no signages, boards or information boards. This is further ruining the property which at some point of time in history would have been a glorious one. See the images below-
One of the more intact structures in Bhangarh complex is the Gopinath Temple but ironically it has lost its main idol to the thieves. This is a Krishna temple (hence the name Gopinath). Perhaps the theft of the main statue prompted authorities to be more stringent.
There are some stories about Princess Ratnavati being a devotee of Lord Krishna. But the main temple courtyard had something to do with dance & music, I presume; as the roof of the hall just outside the sanctorum is decorated with some beautiful statues of musicians. You can see it for yourself-
There are some other carvings too, resembling to other temple structures of north India, just like this one-
Another intriguing structure is right behind this Gopinath temple which local people say was place for cremation or burial (different stories!). Any such place inside the palace and that too so close to a temple is a rarity.
Another interesting fact about this place (palace) is a large number of aromatic Pandanus fascicularis (commonly Kewra or केवड़ा) plants which fill the air with a natural fragrance.
This place is still worth a visit for all those interested in history, architecture, forts, palaces… and in those things, this palace is known for. Not bad even, just to travel and see a new place, but always travel responsibly.
Internet is also strewn with many accounts of people who suffered when they tried to stay in the palace in night. All of them are mere hearsay, with no real account from anybody with a personal experience. As a proof of paranormal activities in this fort, people foolishly also indicate the ASI board which says that nobody should stay here after sunset. But as far as I know, most the ASI controlled forts and other properties in country open only from sunrise to sunset or within fixed timings. Nowhere one is allowed to stay in night. It also is meant to deter all those who want to extract something more out of it- some stories, some weird experiences and some pieces of history, et.al.
How, when and where:
Bhangarh is located in Alwar District of Rajasthan. You can go here from either Jaipur, Dausa or Alwar. It is close to Sariska National Park and Tiger Reserve. Tehla gate of the Sariska reserve is just 20 kms from here. But normally tourists use main Sariska gate for the tiger reserve which is almost 50 kms from Bhangarh. People coming to Sariska will always like to go to Bhangarh for a half day trip. (Please write to us for detailed road instructions.) Jaipur is roughly 80 kms and Alwar on the other side is also the same around 80 kms from here.
Avoid going there in summers as it will be too hot. Since this place is witnessing steady increase in influx of tourists, small level hotels and restaurants are coming up at Bhangarh village and other nearby villages on the route. But they are still to develop good value. You can always try some local food in the region.
(Any queries? Please write to us.)