“ There are limits, beyond which human conscious is reduced to a mere sensory perception, and beyond which lies the throes of the unknown, or the supernatural, as we know it”… As I sit down to recount that journey, an unknown feeling of fear still grips my mind- something that forbids me to share this- a literal sense of reliving the past, experiencing those moments, bringing on a complete sense of Déjà vu. Yet, I must complete this, or else- a beautiful chapter, wrapped in the dark hallows of eons gone by, shall never be revealed-never untold to those who are still non-believers in the art of “What lies beyond”, our conventional perception of what we know is true and tangible, and what we can’t see, but just feel, creeping up our spines.
It was the second leg of our otherwise enjoyable trip to the pink city- Jaipur- a land with innumerable hues and colors, that had us reveling in the joys of the old, and the new alike. After having a blast at the innumerable forts, dancing with local bards at Chokhi Dhani, and gorging on the Dal Baati/Choormas in the local cafes- it was time for us to head back home. As we stopped at a roadside temple to offer our prayers to the great one- before embarking upon the long trip back home- a sudden thought struck my mind. I had heard about this place, on a couple of teleshows on the supernatural, and it lay around 100 KM, enroute to Delhi, somewhere in Alwar. I suggested the same as a stopover route to my fellow travelers-Our Customer care manager, and his better half-our companions on that trip. The initial reaction was not a positive one; or so, I thought, as the ladies thought it prudent, to go in for another round of shop-hunting, then wasting our time in travelling to a nondescript place that no-one had heard of/been to. However-by fate/by circumstance- The male domination mindset took over, and in order to avoid burning yet another hole in our already minuscule pockets- we decided to take the route to Bhangarh instead, and set off. In spite of the loud protests by the ladies- the car took a sharp turn just off the Delhi-Jaipur route, and we were on our way...
The route to Bhangarh, on the alwar state highway, seemed to pop out of a fairy tale!! In the otherwise arid and dry land of Rajasthan- there are small pockets of green hither and thither, and local villagers huddled in groups wave goodbye, as you shoot across them, at break-neck speed. The drive is marked by spectacular changes in the landscape , as one meanders from plain village paths, right onto the heart of the Aravallis, and the landscape is purely amazing..a treat to the senses. The age old rock formations seem to stare at you with nonchalance, and even as you pass them by, a sense of rejuvenation and pure joy breaks on in your soul. The playful herds of cows, little village belles crossing the streets in their rainbow attires, acres of yellow, muddied land- all of these conjure up the feeling of really being out there, away from the conundrums of the otherwise boring existence that we are conditioned to “survive in”…Those concrete metalled edifices, the constant clicking of computers, the rat race- all of that seemed to fade away in the horizon of the setting sun, as we began to near a small hamlet, that was to be our milestone in the journey ahead.
Fortunately, our leading ladies had decided to take a small nap to beat the travel blues- when I and Sunil stepped out to enquire about the directions to the lost city. Our question evoked a sense of trepidation -and fear in the local shopkeeper, as he warned us in a rustic tone- “Arre Saa, Bhooton ke Bhangarh ja rahe ho- Pehra dhalne se pehle wapas a jana..Uske Baad wahan rukna theek nahi”. We laughed it off- seemingly in jest of the ignorant village idiot, but deep within- I must admit- I felt scared. But anyways- we were just 5 KM off the Promised Land, so began the final countdown to the summit. The zip-style state highway disappeared soon after- and we found ourselves trudging heavily onwards on a Cucchha road, bereft of any signs of human habitation. The last that we saw was in a small village-somewhat referred to as “Gola-Ka-Baas”- wonder where that came from. After a drive of around 15 minutes- we stood face-to-face with a huge edifice in grey/black stone, that had been cordoned off by the ASI (Archeological Survey of India)….Bhangarh..
The very first thing that strikes you is the signboard put by the ASI- it has an unambiguous warning that warns people to step out of the premises after sunset, and forbids entry till sunrise. Its probably the only place in India, where the ASI office hasn’t dared to open an office in the monument area, and lies 2/3 KM down the road, away from it all- The story goes that around 400-500 years ago, Bhangarh was a flourishing city, replete with markets, strewn up with colorful locals, and ruled by a benevolent King, and his equally ravishing princess Ratnavali. It so happened, that a magician took fancy to Ratnavali’s charm, and decided to seduce her. In order to accomplish his misplaced intentions- he began to keep a watch on the daily routine of the lady, and noticed that she used to send her maids to fetch bathing oil from the city market. One day, he cast a spell on the oil, to the effect that anyone who uses that oil, shall be drawn straight towards the magician, and satisfy his carnal desire. However, the princess, who herself, was a practitioner of the dark arts- sensed his deeds, and threw the oil at a huge menhir, that lay across the fort..And as the stone hurled towards the evil magician, bringing about his inevitable doom- he uttered his final curse-“O erstwhile ruler of Bhangarh- save yourself from the storm that follows, for this city shall not see the light of Day….and as his words rang rang the death knell for Bhangarh, a huge tempest followed, that destroyed and decimated the entire city, that was left bereft of its people and structures…Soon after, it was lost in the ravages of time, till ASI operations helped uncover it recently, and bought to life, one of the greatest enigmas of Indian history..it is said that the spirits of those who died an untimely death, in the fortified ramparts of the city, still roam the streets of Bhangarh, as night descends on this accursed land.
As we stepped inside the fortified ramparts of the lost city- an entire array of neatly laid out and planned shops, resembling a marketplace of yore, greeted us. This area must have teemed with life, centuries ago, when raucous shopkeepers would have ferried their stuff, locals dressed in their colorful best would be bargaining for the best prices, even as the king’s cavalcade passed by- the locals would have stood, in rapt attention, as the horses rode on their royal hoofs….But all that remains today is an eerie silence, and a striking fact that all of these shop like structures don’t have roofs..rather, it seems that the marketplace, had been sliced from above by a powerful weapon, with the precision of a surgeon, as steps begin to emanate and then simply disappear. It was still 4 30 in the evening- a full hour and a half to go before sunset- yet our hearts began to pound, and we reluctantly, yet, as if called on by an unseen force trudged on to the main fort complex…the theatre of the absurd.
For Reaching Bhangarh. Follow the State highway to Alwar, till you hit Sariska. From here, its an hour's drive, from a fork crossing that goes towards Bhangarh. No decent accomodation/eating options available here- so keep yourself well stacked, and try to make it a day trip. Bhangarh is 200 KM plus from Delhi.
The entire fort complex is replete with stark beauty, where the hills strike a macabre shadow, on the raised ramparts, and temples, that are strewn across the cityscape. Monkeys prancing around, and small goatherds herding their flock, do put you, in a falsified sense of ease..till you decide to check out the temple complexes. The age old structures have stood the test of time, and their greyed walls bear testimony to the eons gone by, yet…there are no idols/no statues of the revered ones…People blame it on vandals/thieves, but, the sense of consternation that grips you, as you discover this strange fact, right in front of your eyes, is to be felt to be believed. We felt Goosebumps down our spines, as we readied ourselves to move out..After all- how can the gods find a place in the land of the damned!!
We just had another half hour to go, before sunset, and decided to check out the fort stairs and rooftop, before calling it a day, even as the ladies decided to stay back, chatting away with a local goat-herd, probably to allay their fears. To be true to myself- I recount that even during broad daylight, the inner passages are completely bereft of natural light. The walk up the stairs tested our skills to the fullest, and once on top, a panoramic view of the entire Aravalli range greeted us. A local, who had parked himself up the place, promptly pointed out to a small Chhatri, right on top of a hillock, and told us that it was the magician’s abode, from where he keeps a watch till date, and comes down every night to seek his beloved- the one who spurned him. Too scared to react- we beat a hasty retreat back to the complex- and caught a quick whiff of air, even as the last rays of the sun began to bid goodbye.
I glanced at my watch-5:15, and unconsciously decided that it was time for us to move back. As we started to make our way back to the entrance- a strange thing happened..Almost, out of nowhere- a strange breeze, began to flow, as if beckoning us to move, to leave. The gamut of emotions that I went through at that moment, were indescribable, and even as we walked- we noticed that even the entire simian population, and the birds that had merrily chirped along in the innmumerable groves that surrounded the place-began their exodus- terrified as if, of the diktat of some unseen force, that began to envelop the surroundings. As we hastened our steps towards the entrance- the priest of a hanuman temple (that lies at the periphery of the complex), also said- “Jaldi karo Sahab- Pehra badal raha hai”- those words rang numerous times in my ears, as we packed up, and beat a hasty retreat back to Delhi.
The remainder of the journey, is almost a haze now…halfway through- we stopped at a Reliance eatery, to grab a quick bite, and throughout the meal- we just stared blankly at each other’s faces, almost disapprovingly, at the thought of the day gone by. We must have played the Hanuman Challisa, at least a hundred times on the music system-yet, a strange feeling of insecurity, and fear continued to haunt us, even as we reached our Delhi home, at around 11 in the night. Even as I tried to pack in a few hours of sleep, before a grueling Monday- I could barely close my eyes, haunted by the sordid tale of horror and sorrow, that is enacted in the arena of Bhangarh-night after night, in the midnight hour.
This is a true recount of the experience that I had, and to be honest, even for a few days, post that trip- we used to feel a typical sense of unease throughout the day- Even as we used to share our travel experiences, with friends, and relatives, and laugh about it- still, deep within, we knew that there was something out there in Bhangarh that evening…something hidden beneath the veil of shadows…