A little village in Jaisalmer reveals a haunting story to Lakshmi Sharath
You do not wake up every day to the news of roads being flooded in Jaisalmer. And cooped inside the palatial fortress in Suryagarh, watching the monsoon rains drench the desert from my window, I was longing to step out and soak in the atmosphere.
And that is when I heard about the legend of the Paliwal Brahmins. Set over 200 years ago, it was the story of a community that had vanished overnight, leaving behind a ghost village to narrate the tale. A haunted trail around Jaisalmer was organised by Suryagarh at night, but it was tempting to explore the abandoned village during the day as well.
A constant drizzle followed us on the road but it was magical to feel the rush of the monsoon in the deserts. We saw an oasis almost everywhere as water gushed through low lying lands and flooded the roads.
Dark low-hanging clouds pregnant with rain took over the sky. The parched desert was only too willing to embrace the downpour. The locals were celebrating, and we met a few people on the roads, rushing to their homes for a sumptuous lunch. The desert looked bewitching but here we were on an eerie trail. We took a detour and reached Kuldhara. An old man dressed in white, sporting a long flowing grey beard surfaced out of nowhere, looking almost like an apparition himself. He had an ageless feel about him. The wrinkles around his face and his sunken eyes seemed to tell a story of their own, but he was more interested in narrating the tale of the Paliwal Brahmins who used to live here in the 18th century.
A way out
The Paliwals were said to be harassed by the local ruler and were paying huge amounts in taxes. But one fine day, the ruler apparently set his eyes on one of the girls in the community, possibly the chief’s daughter.
The Paliwals were given just a day to accept his proposal. Overcome by despair and knowing they couldn't refuse, the entire community abandoned its homes and left town in the dead of night.
We climbed a rickety flight of steps inside an abandoned home to get to the terrace and saw the remnants of the village. Puddles of water had collected in the narrow lanes, which reflected the crumbling ruins. The village wore a desolated look. Only a lone temple stood renovated amid the ruins.
Many stories floated around. Some say 'chudails' or ghosts walked around in the night, others say nobody lived here anymore because of the mysterious deaths. The silence was not comforting. Then the voice of the old man floated by. "No one knows anything about them. People say they went back to Pali in Jodhpur. Only their souls now rest in Kuldhara.”