It was December 23rd when my family and I decided to drive 18 km away from the city of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan to reach Kuldhara. The name means a place where the earth holds its dynasty in place. Quite ironical to the site we saw that morning in front of us but, as we paid the guy our entrance fees, we were very excited to explore this village.
In one corner of the gate, made of metal bars which seemed to guard the village, sat a man with a few tourists who were intently listening to whatever he had to say about the community. The village of Kuldhara was said to be inhabited by the Paliwal Brahmins of Rajasthan and was one of the most prosperous communities. Even the design of the village with wide roads on both sides of the double storeyed stone houses, temples in every corner, depicted the same.
The streets of this village called us to explore it on foot, and we got out of our car and landed on the desert sand. It seemed strange to think that any livelihood existed in this dry and dusty land, even if it was two hundred years ago. I walked through the abandoned houses with broken walls and rooftops, jumping and climbing the uneven stones to find something. My brain cooked up different stories wondering what happened in each room, trying to figure out what made those families leave their home. It felt like these stones had a story to tell and each house called wanting to narrate it.
ASI rebuilt a few houses to show how people might have lived in 1825. I felt a presence or imagined one maybe, of someone peeking in from the reconstructed window like they were calling me, to tell their story perhaps. As we climbed the terrace of one of the houses, we saw a view, quite sad. As far as one could look, it was just destruction, done by time and people.
There were a few stories that the kids out here narrated to the tourists. One was a practical one: with the increment in taxes and a shortage of water, the Brahmins couldn’t keep up their livelihood and abandoned the village. But, the fact that made Kuldhara fascinating was that it was abandoned by the entire village, overnight. So, what could be the reason that forced the villagers to leave their home all in one night?
A more alluring one is the tale where the Diwan of the State, Salem Singh fell for a twelve-year-old and vowed to marry her when she became of age. The Paliwal Brahmins tried to reason with him; they couldn’t marry her to someone who was out of her caste. Unpersuaded, he planned to run away with her but,true to their word and morals, when the Brahmins found out about this, they wrapped up whatever could take with them and abandoned the village, overnight.
Although, seeing skeletons of houses spread across the vast land, both the tales don’t seem to suffice its state. The now silenced streets have the kids telling another story. A curse by the PaliwalBrahmins before they left Kuldhara prohibited it to be inhabited by anyone else. The village is haunted, and no one is allowed to stay there after sundown.
To reach Kuldhara, I’d advise you to hire a car to go out of the city of Jaisalmer. Carry a bottle of water as the place is completely deserted and wear comfortable shoes if you would like to explore. It might seem eerie but, it still feels like this place still has an untold story to tell and the abandoned streets of Kuldhara are still waiting to narrate it.
Written byShraboni Dutta
Studying English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University. She has a knack for telling stories which comes from her love for theater. Extremely curious in nature, she is passionate about learning more about people, culture, and heritage.