Written By Nikita Chandola.
Everyone loves travelling (if not trip then staycation for sure), but travelling to places with a tragic past is not a cup of tea for everyone, and choosing such destinations is always about interest in the human psyche.
Dark tourism means travelling to places that have death and tragedy intertwined with their history. The history of these places have you believing in stories which are either not very practical and empathizing with the ones that are extremely tragic.
India is a country of 1.3 billion people and is known for its diversity, culture, religion and colourful festivals, along with its vast history. History, despite being tales of our ancestors, religion, culture and change over time, has a chilling effect on us.
These tales are not necessarily dark or dangerous but can still give you goosebumps. India along with beautiful and serene destinations is also famous for its dark and haunted sites. The country has lots of history deeply rooted in all corners.
Dark tourism is especially for all those who are fascinated by the dark side of history and are eager to explore and understand the same. If you ask me, these tales of tragedy and devastation make a place more relatable and make room for imagination.
Below are a few of the many places in India which you might or might not have heard about, but you will definitely be curious and will think of visiting it (just like I’m doing right now).
1. Kuldhara, Rajasthan
When it comes to lavish palaces, the royal lifestyle and haunted places, Rajasthan always stands on top of the list. Kuldhara is one such place with a dark history in Rajasthan.
Around 18kms away from Jaisalmer, it is a small abandoned village which was not so abandoned 300 years ago. Legends said that the village was a settlement of Paliwal Brahmins who had inhabited the land for more than five centuries. The village ruler, Salim Singh, had his evil eyes set on the daughter of the village chief and desired to marry her.
He threatened the villagers with bad consequences if his wish was not fulfilled and gave them a day to do so. It was on the same day that the Paliwals held a council and left their homes, vanishing overnight. The villagers before leaving cursed the Kuldhara village that no-one would be able to settle in their village then onwards.
From that day, till today Kuldhara is nothing but barren and the houses remain as they were. It is said that those who have tried to stay there have been chased away by paranormal activities. The village also has another story behind it, the one narrated by the people of nearby villages in Jaisalmer.
If in Jaisalmer, it is a must-visit Archeological site, and you never know you might also believe the story after visiting Kuldhara which oozes sadness in the air.
2. Cellular Jail, Port Blair
To actually know the consequences Indian freedom fighters faced to free the country from the clutches of Britishers, this place is a must-visit in Andaman. Cellular Jail a.k.a ‘Kaala Pani’ is situated in Port Blair, a place for Britishers to keep the Indian freedom fighters away in the prisons of this jail.
Many famous people from Veer Savarkar, Mahavir Singh to Batukeshwar Dutta and many others have spent their lives in this jail. This is not like some regular prison. Here, the inmates were not only kept far away from real life but also kept away from each other.
The prisoners were always kept tied down with metal bondage, the motto being to break the wills and souls of people here. And yet, if you visit this tourist place, you’ll find nothing but calmness, it’s like our freedom fighters despite suffering a lot still radiate peace. If you visit this place, you will be haunted by the pain of all the Indians who suffered in this cursed (not literally) jail.
It is one of the famous dark tourist spots which will surely make your heart-weep, and you will be more grateful to all those freedom-fighters who suffered for our country’s freedom.
3. Dumas Beach, Surat
Dumas, a scenic beach in Surat, Gujarat is famous not only for its assorted fritters (bhajiyas) but also for being haunted. The morning sun brings with it a beauty worth witnessing but the nightfall brings the tales of the unseen presence.
If the stories are to be believed, the beach used to be the burial ground for the Hindus and hence the white sand has turned black due to the ashes, over the years. Its history has people believing in the presence of evil spirits in the vicinity to be true and the chilling accounts and experiences don’t really help the case.
There is a divide of opinions as to whether Dumas is haunted or not, but the spooky structures in the vicinity definitely add to the mystery and fear. If not for the stories of it being haunted, you should definitely visit this place for the mouth-watering bhajiyas.
4. Dow Hill in Kurseong, Darjeeling
Darjeeling is one of the beautiful places in India and Dow Hill of Kurseong is 30 km away from Darjeeling. It is a small hill which is as beautiful and tranquil as it is haunted. Yes, it is one of the haunted places in India if the stories are to be believed.
If all the spooky stories are to go by, there’s a ghost of a headless boy found walking and disappearing into the darkness of the forest. It is believed that the forest has an evil entity which makes people lose their mental balance and go insane.
Now, whether it’s true or just the stories depends on what you believe! If visiting Kurseong, then acquaint yourself with the eerie feeling. Limit yourself for the day trip and try to not cross the forest. However, in the end, the small town is a dreamy place with pleasant weather throughout the year.
5. Bhangarh, Rajasthan
The most obvious place when it comes to dark tourism and the most haunted place in India is said to be Bhangarh Fort in Alwar district. The story of this place dates back to centuries ago. The fort was built by ruler Raja Bhagwant Das for his younger son Madho Singh.
Although, the family’s most famous member was Man Singh I as he was a trusted general and one of nine advisors to Mughal emperor Akbar. There’s a variety of stories which surround this fort, and amongst them, one is that of a local ascetic warning the king that no homes in the vicinity of the fort should cast a shadow on his home, and he cursed the fort after it overshadowed his home.
Another version is the tale of a black magician falling in love with the princess and attempting to use a love potion on her. The potion backfired on him and the princess dogged his move resulting in him being physically crushed due to the spell.
Before dying, he cursed the fort into becoming nothing but ruins, inhabitable, like today! Due to many cases of accidents here, the Archeological Survey of India has prohibited visitors between sunset and sunrise. One should definitely visit Bhangarh to experience the mystery of the truth and tragedy that hangs in the air and if not that, then definitely for the beauty of it.
6. Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai
Not only a place of dark tragic past but also rumoured to be haunted, Taj Hotel in Mumbai is a 5-star hotel which used to be famous for its amazing interiors, food and hospitality. But now, it is known for being one of the prime spots of the 26/11 attack.
This is a must-visit hotel which, despite the renovations, will be a living picture of the horrors and loss we all witnessed through our TV screens and will move you to your core. Butas said this place does have a haunted story to its past.
Apart from the 9/11 tragedy, the hotel is also rumoured to be haunted. According to the legends the hotel plan was originally designed by W.A. Chambers a french architect, but not constructed as per his plan.
When he returned from a trip to England, he was disheartened and shocked to find his plans ruined and committed suicide by jumping off the fifth floor of the building. According to the accounts of several people, including the hotel staff, the ghost of Chambers haunts the old wing of the hotel.
7. Three Kings Church, Goa
Whether ghost stories are true or not depends on what people believe but this one place is for all those who like to visit dark tourist places. Three Kings Church is in Goa on the hills of Ceulim. It is the lonely church which has its own mystery surrounding it.
The story goes back to the time when Portuguese ruled Goa. The three kings who were power hungry wanted to rule the place, which resulted in unrest in the region. One day, King Holger Alvunger planned to kill the other two kings by inviting them for dinner and poisoning their food, in which he succeeded.
However, the locals later got to know about his cruelty and began to chase him. To escape from them he ate the poisoned food and died along with the other two. Later, locals buried them in the premises of the church. And it is said that the villagers still hear strange noises coming from the church.
Looks like the three kings still are as power-hungry, as they were when alive. Ghostly or not, the Three Kings Church is worth visiting. This small hill in the interiors of South Goa is a nature lovers’ paradise, it gives you a mind-blowing aerial view of South Goa mingled with a glimpse of the Arabian Sea. Hence, a trip to the Three Kings Church is definitely worth your time.
8. Savoy Hotel, Mussoorie
A little ahead of Mussoorie Library lies Savoy, a hotel which was built in 1902 by Cecil D Lincoln, an Irish barrister from Lucknow. It is the oldest hotel in the region and said to be one of the haunted places in India.
Agatha Christie and murder mysteries go hand in hand and it was the incident at the Savoy that inspired her to write her first novel “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. Savoy hotel mystery goes back to 1911 when a famous
British spiritualist, Lady Garnet Orme was murdered here. The reason is still unknown, but she was poisoned by strychnine. The incident also became the encouragement behind Ruskin Bond’s ‘In a Crystal Ball – A Mussoorie Mystery’ (2003).
It is believed that the hotel corridors and halls are still haunted by the lady’s ghost (looks like she still looks for her murderer). If in Mussoorie visit this hotel and treat your eyes to the English Gothic architecture style, and the many artefacts and sceneries which reflect the art and culture of British India.
9. Shaniwarwada, Pune
Forts, Havelis and such architectural buildings have heart-wrenching and nightmarish stories surrounding them. Shaniwarwada fort in Pune is also known for its heart-wrenching ghost fantasy and for the historical tale of the magnificent Maratha Kingdom.
It is an amazing place to visit as it gives you a perfect idea of how Maratha imperial architecture was in the bygone era. The foundation of this fort was laid by Peshwa Bajirao I and is a perfect blend of Maratha style and authentic Mughal architecture.
It is said that the major fire in the year 1791 destroyed a significant part of the fort, but after that many times it was burnt, finally, in the year 1828, a fire caught and wrecked it.
It is also said that on a full moon night, screams of Peshwa Narayan Rao, whose last moments before being murdered were spent running across the fort, pleading with his uncle to save his life, are still heard in the fort. Haunted or not, this place is definitely worth a visit. You’ll also get to visit nearby attractions.
10. Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar
One of many places in India, which will force you to remember again the cruelty of Britishers on Indians, and what our country and its people had gone through while fighting for freedom. On 13th April 1919, thousands of people gathered in Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate their festival and also protest against the Britishers rules.
But soon, the place witnessed the massacre of thousands of people, as General Dyer ordered the British Army to open fire. There was just one entry and exit gate and it was closed by the British Army and every Indian present there died.
Remembering it after all those years still brings tears to eyes, evoke anger and helplessness. The place after all these still oozes sadness around it, you should definitely visit this place as you’ll get to know more about the history of this place and will get a chance to visit the most beautiful and serene religious place, The Golden Temple.
There are many places in India with tragic or haunted past, but each place gives you insights about India’s history and whether ghosts or something related to the colonial period, the places will definitely have your curiosity. If you have visited any of the above places, do share your experience!
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Nikita Chandola is a media student and a fashion enthusiast, who has a passionate dream of seeing the world and all that it has to offer. She is an introvert who chooses to be selectively outspoken, and is also a good listener. She also loves listening to music, reading books and sometimes sketching. She is a mountain person, so much that she plans to settle in the mountains in future.