Around 300 years ago, a new Diwan took control of the desert town of Jaisalmer. With a new ruler come new rules. Salim Singh raised taxes in the villages that fell under his control. Wealth disappeared from the villages as quickly as respect for the new leader.
However, it wasn’t until Salim Singh demanded the hand of the daughter of a village elder when troubles started. Not being a man who makes demands lightly, the village had ten days to hand her over or face even higher taxes.
85 villages turned their backs on the Diwan as a result of his audacity. Within ten days the villagers had packed up and moved on to new settlements. To spite Salim Singh, the elder of the village of Kuldhara placed a curse on the area. No one should settle in the village until the end of time.
Or so the story goes.
As we passed through a modest settlement we took a dusty road before arriving in a square. There were a couple of tourist buses but its passengers had since dispersed into the ruins ahead of us. We were in Kuldhara, a place notorious for being the haunted cursed town of local legend. Bus loads of national tourists come here on a daily basis in search of Bhoot and a cheap scare.
We crossed a sandy square and were left to our own devices. Kuldhara, like most attractions in India, has no limit to where you can go. I stepped past a dome, presumably of historic importance, and into the shell of a home. Through the entrance room and into a walled space it doesn’t take long to appreciate that you are standing inside someone’s home. There are steps, crumbling doorways and painted window frames.
From the higher levels the expanse of the village is apparent. Ruined abodes still try to cling onto the present next to forgotten roads. There is a central temple, complete with handprints and intricate carvings that I can only assume is no longer in use.
For 500 years Kuldhara was a living village. It had seen wealth and trade but in a short space of time its residents abandoned it. Some say it remains abandoned as the result of a curse. Realists say that it is because of the unforgiving environment; water simply disappeared.
Either way there is a sadness to the village. Centuries of life have been left to crumble as tourists run around making loud noises in dark rooms. Bats guard cellars. Newer villagers are trying to rebuild the road and break that curse. Whether it is haunted or not, Kuldhara’s desperation can easily be felt.