Kuldhara is a tourist ghost town located in eastern Rajasthan, India 18 kilometers south east of Jaislmer. It does not have an official website, but there are a number of caretakers there who charge a nominal entrance fee of 50 Rupees. The money collected goes to preserve the town. A number of buildings have been restored and provide welcoming relief from the sun.
Kuldhara was established in 1291 after the Paliwal clan migrated from Pali to escape the tyranny of the Pali king. and became the largest of 85 towns in the area. It had a population of about 1500 people, all of whom were Paliwal Brahmins, decedents of the Maharaj Haridas. The towns flourished and became an active trade center.
But for some reason all 85 villages were abandoned in the mid 1800s. The exact date of the exodus is in question too, some sites say as much as 300 years ago, but most say 150-170 years.
The population is said to have been very intelligent, knowing the secrets of cultivating water intensive crops in the desert. They knew the “secret” of identifying the layers of rock and which ones could keep water in the desert. It is also said that every time someone joined one of the villages, each family in the village would give that person a brick to start a house, and a gold coin to start a business.
The stories about the town do not stop there. Some feel that the towns were abandoned due to invasion by the Mughal Empire. Another says that the minister of the time demanded heavy taxes and inhumanely treated the Paliwal Brahmins peoples.
But the prevailing story, and the one told by the caretakers, is that an unmanned minister had his eye on the daughter of the chief of Kuldhara. He demanded to marry her and threatened the locals if he did not. They villages got together and decided to leave totally, leaving no trace behind. Before they left, they cursed the villages so that nobody could inhabit the village again. It is believe that the unnamed minister might have been Diwan Salim Singh, and the exodus took place between 1825 and 1830.
This story is the reason why many feel the town is haunted now. There are reports of weird feelings, and ghostly chills, and even an investigation by ghost hunters. It is also said that the Paliwal Brahmins do not celebrate Rakshabandhan as this was the day they abandoned the city.
No matter the validity of the stories of Kuldhara’s demise, what remains today is decidedly a ghost town. The entire area is littered with abandoned buildings from the 85 towns. Kuldhara itself has a well, and the remains of a temple that are both preserved.