India is an ancient civilisation and as with such a history, there are bound to be many mysteries associated with the country. Owing to India’s vast size, cultural differences, and mythological stories, it became a land of strange tales, some born out of rumours and some the result of the imagination. Some stories and myths are so strange they have to be true. So after my post on the world’s mysterious places, how can I ignore India? So here are some of India’s most mysterious places. Some of these have been mentioned in my bucket list series while the others are new even to me. The places are listed in alphabetical order, by state.
The Hanging Pillar of Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh
The beautiful 16th-century Veerabhadra temple, also known as Lepakshi temple, is located in the small historical village of Lepakshi. Built in the typical style of Vijayanagara architecture, the temple features many exquisite sculptures of Gods, Goddesses, dancers and musicians, and hundreds of paintings all over the walls, columns and ceiling depicting stories from the epics of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas, including a 24 by 14 feet fresco of Veerabhadra, the fiery God created by Shiva, on the ceiling, which is the largest fresco of any single figure in India. At the front of the temple is a large Nandi (bull), the mount of Shiva, which is carved from a single block of stone, and is said to be one of the largest of its type in the world.
Among the 70 stone pillars, there is one that hangs from the ceiling. The base of the pillar barely touches the ground and is possible to pass objects such as a thin sheet of paper or a piece of cloth from one side to the other. It is said that the pillar is a bit dislodged from its original position when a British engineer tried to move it in an unsuccessful attempt to uncover the secret of its support.
Kamakhya Devi Temple, Assam
A beautiful ancient hilltop temple dedicated to the mother goddess, Kamkhya, the Kamkhya Temple is is one one of the oldest and most revered centres of Tantric practices. It is also one of the Shakti Peethas or places, where Goddess Sati’s body parts fell on Earth. Legend has it that the Kamakhya Temple is built on the spot where Sati’s yoni or vagina fell. Every year, a very mysterious thing happens in the temple for three days in a specific month. It is believed that the goddess goes through her menstrual cycle and the water of the Brahmaputra river, which flows near the temple, turns red with her blood.
In the small and quaint Assamese town of Jatinga, over the last hundred years, thousands and thousands of birds have flown to their death over a particular strip of land here. Why this strip of land has become the Bermuda triangle for birds is still unexplained. However, every year after the monsoons in September or October, from 6 to 9:30 pm on moonless nights, the birds in the area seem to get agitated and disoriented. During the dark and foggy nights in monsoons, migratory birds flying over the village, dive headlong into trees, buildings, poles, and other structures, crashing to death. This phenomenon is not confined to a single species, with the birds mostly juvenile. According to ornithologists, the dense fog and high altitude daze the birds and due to this they end up crashing into trees and buildings. The birds, mostly juveniles and local migrants, are disturbed by high-velocity winds at their roost. When the disturbed birds fly towards lights as refuge they are hit with bamboo poles and killed or injured.
Khooni Nadi, Delhi
Who would imagine that in the heart of India’s capital is a bloody river or the Khooni Nadi, a small stream surrounded by trees and green vegetation? The river is believed to be haunted with many terrifying accounts of people being sucked into the water, never to be seen again. It is believed that anyone touching the water of the river will get sucked inside, only to turn into ghosts and wander around the stream. It is also said that anyone loitering around the river during sunset can also hear unusual sounds of crying people. Even though the depth of the stream is shallower compared o other rivers, people still drown here.
Agrasen Ki Baoli, Delhi
Also known as Ugrasen Ki Baoli, Agrasen Ki Baoli is a 60-meter long and 15-meter wide historical step well in the heart of New Delhi. It is believed to be originally built by the legendary king Agrasen in 3000 BC and rebuilt in the 14th century during the Tughlag or Lodi period of the Delhi Sultanate. This Baoli, with 108 steps, is among a few of its kind in Delhi. The baoli has many legends to its credit with one saying that the water collected used to turn black and ghostly demons used to hide out here in its walls. It is also said that when people approached the black water in the well, they would be enticed by it and were compelled to commit suicide. As they leapt from the well into the depths of the black water below, the water would rise and spill over, oozing the blood of its victim. Many people complain about being ‘followed’ in the stepwell as they can hear footsteps behind them. But, this can be explained away by the echoes caused by the acoustics in the architecture.
Dumas Beach, Gujarat
Located in Surat, in the western state of Gujarat, Dumas Beach on the Arabian Sea looks like a gorgeous slice of paradise during the day. But once the sun does down, it becomes deserted with those staying on the beach overnight either never coming back or having horrible experiences. Famous for its black sand, the beach was once used as a Hindu burial ground and hence is said to be possessed by several spirits that never left the region. According to local folklore, the existence of black sand is because of the amount of ash created by burning the dead which got mixed with the white sand of the beach and it turned dark. People strolling on the beach hear whispers and find no one when they look around for the source. There have even been reports of disappearances on the beach.
Jwala Ji Temple, Himachal Pradesh
Located in the lower Himalayas in Kangra, the Jwala Ji temple is a holy shrine typical of other Jwala Ji shrines in the country. But what is unique and mysterious about this temple is the eternal flame that burns inside the shrine. There is a central pit of hollowed stone inside the shrine where the flame burns. The temple is also a Shaktipeeth and it is where Sati’s tongue fell and the Goddess is manifest as tiny flames that burn flawless blue through fissures in the rock. This flame has been burning for centuries. It is theorised that the flame is burning off a supply of natural gases like methane under its surface.
More than an actual destination, Gyanganj is a belief. There is a belief in the existence of a mysterious city of immortal beings. It is believed that Gyanganj is hidden from sight, far out of the reaches of modern mapping and technology as it is probably camouflaged or even may exist in another dimension. According to the legends, Gyanganj is believed to be an antediluvian Indian and Tibet tale of a city-kingdom of enigmatic eternal beings that remain concealed from the world. It is said that they exist deep in the Himalayas, however, have an influence over mankind in several clandestine ways. Gyanganj is said to be in an isolated valley in the Himalayas and is called Shangri-La, Siddhashram or Shambhala. A point to note is that one can not access Gyanganj unless they have a Karmic Connection with it. Tibetan Buddhists believe that this mysterious region is hidden in some obscure place in Central Asia. What’s more interesting is the Tibetan Buddhist mythos says that when the world falls into a chasm of ravenousness and war, the 25th ruler of Shambhala will appear to escort the blue planet into a better future.
Talakadu Mini Desert, Karnataka
Located on the banks of river Kaveri, in the Chamarajanagar district, a village lies buried deep in the sand. Talakadu is believed to have been home to about 30 temples once, five of which are Lingams representing the 5 faces of Lord Shiva. It is believed that a widowed devotee of Lord Shiva named Allemalamma in the 16th century had once cursed Talakadu, following which the village turned into a desert and the River Kaveri became a swirling whirlpool at Malangi. The curse also included the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore which was cursed with childlessness, all of which is true today.
Also known as the Submerged Church and the Floating Church, the Shettihalli Church was built in the 1860s by French missionaries in the Gothic style of architecture. After the construction of the Hemavati Dam and Reservoir in 1960, the church was submerged under water and has since become a famous tourist spot where people flock to see the half-submerged church during the monsoons.
Village of Twins, Kerala
Kodinhi is a small village in Kerala, about 35 km from Calicut. Around 2000 families live here and almost every family has a pair of twins. The village is renowned for its inexplicable number of twin births since 1949 and today there are 200 pairs of twins and three pairs of triplets in the village. Also known as the Village of Twins, women from the village who marry outside also have twins or triplets. Despite several studies being conducted, the exact cause of this phenomenon is yet to be ascertained. According to medical experts, this phenomenon is due to the chemicals present in the water in the area. According to locals, the oldest known twin pair in the village was born in 1949.
Idukki is a small town in the Wayanad district of the Malabar region. On Monday, 15 July 1957, rain that was red in colour or blood rain as it was called occurred here. The rain subsequently turned yellow. After this time, blood rain happened again between 25 July to 23 September 2001 when heavy downpours of red-coloured rain fell sporadically, staining clothes pink. Yellow, green and black rain was also reported. Coloured rain was also reported in Kerala in 1896 and several times since, most recently in June 2012. Following a light-microscopy examination in 2001, it was initially thought that the rains were coloured by fallout from a hypothetical meteor burst, but a study commissioned by the Government of India concluded that the rains had been coloured by airborne spores from a locally prolific terrestrial green algae from the genus Trentepohlia.
Magnetic Hill, Ladakh
Magnetic hills, or gravity hills, are optical illusions in which a road that looks like it’s sloping uphill due to the surrounding landscape is sloping downhill, so cars, buses and other vehicles appear to roll uphill in defiance of gravity. Local superstition holds that the magnetic hill outside of Leh, India, leads people to heaven, and visitors flock here to test this strange natural phenomenon for themselves. Cars have been known to reach speeds of 20 kmph while climbing uphill of their own volition. According to science, the mountain has a strong magnetic field that pulls these cars and there is also likely to be an optical illusion where the road actually goes downhill but seems otherwise.
Kongka La Pass, Ladakh
At an elevation of 16,970 feet, the Kongka La Pass is a low mountain pass on the Line of Actual Control between India and China in eastern Ladakh. There have been many UFO and strange humanoid figure sightings there and locals believe that the area is home to aliens.
Shaniwarwada Fort, Maharashtra
A historical fortification in Pune, Shaniwar Wada was the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire. Built in 1732, and following the rise of the Maratha Empire, the palace became the centre of Indian politics in the 18th century. The fort itself was largely destroyed in 1828 by an unexplained fire, but the surviving structures are now maintained as a tourist site. When 16-year-old Narayan Rao acquired the throne at the Shaniwar Wada Fort, conspiracies began surrounding him to dethrone him. An uncle and aunt sought the help of the head of the Gardis, a tribe of hunters who killed the young Peshwa, chopped his body into pieces, and tossed them into a nearby river. It is believed that the fort is now populated by lost souls who died within its walls and locals who live nearby also claim that you can hear the heart-wrenching screams of the young Peshwa on full moon nights. The fort is one of those places that forbid entry after 6.30 pm.
Shivapur Levitating Stone, Maharashtra
The Hazrat Qamar Ali Darvesh is known for a special rock that weighs 70 kg and can only be lifted by one means. To lift the rock, 11 people are required to gather around it, touch it with their forefingers, and loudly call out the name of the saint who placed a curse on it, following which the stone rises in the air magically. The stone cannot be lifted by any other means, no matter how strong it is. It is believed that a Sufi saint named Qamar Ali placed a curse on this stone that was being used for bodybuilding about 800 years ago.
Lonar Crater Lake, Maharashtra
Lonar is an unassuming village in Maharashtra known for being the site of a meteor impact crater. The crater is a notified National Geo-heritage Monument, created by a meteorite collision impact during the Pleistocene Epoch. It is one of the four known, hyper-velocity, impact craters in basaltic rock on Earth with the other three basaltic impact structures in southern Brazil. Over the years, the crater has become a lake, which is both alkaline and saline at the same time and creates an ecosystem for several organisms that are rarely found elsewhere. There seems to be no known source of the perennial springs that feed the lake. In many parts of the lake, compasses don’t work, and no one knows what lies at its bottom. In a 2019 study, conducted by IIT Bombay it was found that the minerals in the lake soil are very similar to the minerals found in moon rocks brought back during the Apollo Program. The lake was declared a protected Ramsar site in November 2020.
Shani Shingnapur, Maharashtra
A small village about 35 km from Ahmednagar Shani Shingnapuris famous for its temple dedicated to Lord Shani, the God associated with the planet Saturn. But that’s not all that is famous about this village. But what is the village most famous for is that none of the houses, or any building in the village has a door, only a door frame. Despite this, officially no theft was reported in the village although there were reports of theft in 2010 and 2011. The temple is believed to be a Jagrut Devasthan or an alive temple which means that a deity still resides in the temple icon. The deity here is Swayambhu or self-evolved that is self emerged from earth in the form of a black, imposing stone. Found by shepherds of the hamlet, the stone statue is believed to be in existence for a few thousand years. Villagers believe that Lord Shani punishes anyone attempting theft, hence the lack of doors in the village and the near-zero crime rate.
Shetpal, or Shetphal is a small village about 200 km south of Pune which is famous for snake worship. The village has established a custom, wherein it is mandatory for every household to have a resting place for cobras in the rafters of their ceilings. Snakes are worshipped daily in every home in this village and have no restriction in their movements and none of the 2,600 plus villagers harm them in any way. Cobras are welcomed in every house as a member of the family and neither the cobras nor the residents live in fear of each other. If anyone in the village constructs a new house, he makes sure to devote a hollow portion of the dwelling as a devasthanam or a holy abode for the snakes. Snakes are treated as pets in this village, and even visit the schools when a class is in progress. Since adopting this relationship with the snakes, the locals have experienced virtually no problems with them, bar the occasional occupation of the bathroom.
Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan
A 16th-century fort in Rajasthan, Bhangarh Fort was built by Bhagwant Das for his younger son Madho Singh and even today the fort and its precincts are well preserved. The fort is said to be haunted by the presence of a cursed princess and her captor, the wizard Sinhai. According to legend, a wizard adept in black magic named Sinhai fell in love with Ratnavati, a beautiful Bhangarh princess with many suitors. One day, the wizard followed her to the marketplace and offered her a love potion; however, she refused it, throwing it onto a large rock that consequently rolled onto the wizard and crushed him to death, but not before he cursed all the inhabitants of Bhangarh. According to another tale, a Sadhu or sage named Baba Balak Nath lived within the fort area, and it was his injunction that any house built in the precinct of the fort should not be taller than his own, and if the shadow of any such house fell on his, it would result in the destruction of the fort town. Today, the complex is considered one of the most haunted spots in India and the Archaeological Survey of India forbids visitors from entering the fort after sunset with locals reporting deaths as a result of the continued curse.
The Abandoned Village of Kuldhara, Rajasthan
A prosperous village established in the 13th century, Kuldhara was home to more than 1500 Paliwal Brahmans, descendants of a tribe that had lived there for more than 5 centuries. One night, in the 18th century, Kuldhara was suddenly abandoned by its population of about 1,500 people. The local legend claims that while deserting the village, the Paliwals imposed a curse that no one would be able to re-occupy the village. Those who tried to re-populate the village experienced paranormal activities, and therefore, the village remains uninhabited. Tourists who visit Kuldhara encounter an uneasy feeling when they set foot inside the village.
Jal Mahal, Rajasthan
Jal Mahal which means Water Palace is a palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur. The palace was originally constructed in 1699 as a hunting lodge with the building and the lake around it later renovated and enlarged in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber. However, when the King of Amber decided to build a dam between the two surrounding hills to save the city from floods in the 18th century, the depression around the palace started filling up with water. Today, when one looks across the Man Sagar Lake, one can see this palace in the middle, with one floor and plant life peeking from above its roof. Water hides 4 more floors below it and little else is known about this structure which has no chambers but a pavilion and a terrace garden. Nowadays, visitors can get to the palace using boats specially designed to match the appearance of the building. On the roof, there are various plants, including a few fully grown trees that can be seen from the shore.
Karni Mata Temple, Rajasthan
Dedicated to Goddess Karni Mata, the temple which lies about 30 km from Bikaner is also known as the Temple of Rats. The temple is famous for the approximately 25,000 black rats and a few white rats, which are very rare, and are revered, in the temple. These holy rats are considered as Depawat charan in a previous birth, these both take birth in a cycle of Depawat charan and Rats respectively. Many people travel great distances to pay their respects. Visitors are not allowed to kill, hurt, or even scare them away. These rats, or kabbas, as they’re called there, are considered to be highly auspicious, are worshipped, and safeguarded, which is why they hold more value than the humans visiting the shrine. The rats are believed to be the reincarnated relatives and family members of Karni Mata with the rare, white mice considered to be her sons. The temple draws visitors from across the country for blessings, as well as curious tourists from around the world.
The Shrine Of the Bullet Baba, Rajasthan
About 46 km from Jodhpur near the Chotila village there is an extremely unique shrine located known as the Shri Om Banna Shrine or the Shrine of the Bullet Baba. What’s unique about this shrine is that the main deity is not the usual statue of a God or Goddess, instead, it is a motorcycle, specifically a 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet with the license plate RNJ 7773. The story behind the shrine is that a man named Om Singh Rathore, or Om Banna, died at this spot in a tragic accident while riding back home on his bullet. What followed was a series of unusual happenings where the police would take away the bike, empty its fuel tank, and bind it in chains, but it would return to the same spot before daybreak and this happened every single time. When the authorities finally gave up, the locals built a temple around this bike. Today, hundreds of devotees turn up every day to pray for a safe journey.
The Floating Stones Of Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
A holy place at the southern tip of India. Rameshwaram holds immense importance in Hindu mythology, as it is where, according to the Ramayana, Lord Rama’s Vanara Sena or Monkey Army built a bridge of floating stones to Sri Lanka to fight the ruler, King Ravana who had abducted his wife Goddess Sita. According to the Ramayana, the bridge was built of stones that would stay afloat once the name of Lord Rama was scribbled on it. There is a bridge made of such stones, as they are still found around here. The weight of each stone is 10 to 20 kgs which are kept in the ancient Rama Temple. The stones that are found in the coastal regions will be similar to that of all other stone and has the same features. The ancient bridge between India and Sri Lanka can still be found on Google Maps and is known as Adam’s Bridge, a chain of limestone shoals & sand bars in the ocean between mainland India & Sri Lanka.
Chilkur Temple, Telangana
Also known as the Visa Balaji Temple, the Chilkur Balaji Temple is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Balaji on the banks of the Osman Sagar near Hyderabad. This temple has no hundi and neither accepts any money from devotees. The temple became popular in 2000 as it became known to fulfill the wishes of devotees wanting to go overseas. In the quest of visiting abroad, thousands of devotees from across the country visit the temple every week. Apart from offering prayers for visas, devotees also pray at the temple for clearing exams and marriage. Once their wishes are fulfilled, devotees make sure that they visit the temple to thank the deity and perform circumambulations around the temple.
Also known as the Mystery Lake or Skeleton Lake, Roopkund is a high-altitude glacial lake in the lap of the Trishul massif in the Himalayas at an altitude of about 5,020 m surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains. With a depth of about 3 metres, Roopkund is widely known for the hundreds of ancient human skeletons found at the edge of the lake. The human skeletal remains are visible at its bottom when the snow melts. Initial investigations led some to believe they were the remains of a semi-legendary event when a single group was killed in a sudden and violent hailstorm in the 9th century, but scientific research has subsequently shown that the remains belong to three distinct groups who died in two independent events. Because of the human remains, the lake has been called Skeleton Lake in recent times. Locals believe that the corpses belong to a then King and Queen of Kanauj, who were going on a pilgrimage but plunged into the lake due to a severe hailstorm and died.
Bara Imambara, Uttar Pradesh
Built by Asaf-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Awadh in 1784, Bara Imambara is also known as Asfi Imambara. Bara means big and this Imambara or congregation hall is the second largest after the Nizamat Imambara. With a blend of Arabic and European architecture, the Imambara’s central arched hall is about 50 metres in length and almost 3 stories high but has no pillars or beams supporting it and is one of the largest such arched constructions in the world. The main hall is also famous for its unique interlocking brick structure and the Bhulbhulaiya, a dense labyrinth.
Morgan House, West Bengal
Morgan House is a mansion of British colonial architecture built by an English jute baron Mr George Morgan in the 1930s on the hill station of Kalimpong to celebrate his wedding with an indigo plantation owner. After the wedding, Mr and Mrs Morgan occupied the British colonial mansion. Mrs Morgan died a premature death, and Mr Morgan left the house soon after. A trust took the ownership of the house after its abandonment and after India attained Independence the government took control of the property. It is now being maintained as a boutique hotel. Mrs Morgan’s sudden demise is believed to be because her husband tortured her before she died, and hence, her unhappy soul still haunts the house. Although there have been no sightings of Mrs Morgan’s ghost, people have heard the tapping of high-heeled footwear in the corridors of the lodge.
Aleya Ghost Lights, West Bengal
The Sundarbans are a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal. There are many sightings of unnatural glowing lights of different colours hovering over these marshes. Referred to as Aleya Lights for many years now, these lights are a nightmare for fishermen, as they usually end up confusing them and they would lose their way. In many cases, various fishermen have even lost their lives due to these strange lights. According to local belief, these lights are emanated from the stranded spirits of dead fishermen who lost their lives in these swamps. According to scientists, these lights are natural phenomena such as bioluminescence or chemiluminescence, caused by the oxidation of methane produced by organic decay or due to geological faulting.
I’ve enjoyed putting together this mini-series on mysterious places and hope to get to see as many as I can, especially those that are born of natural phenomena. Mother Nature at her best, don’t you think?