Our quest for the most beautiful abandoned places in India and the history behind them took us to Kuldhara a vast mazelike cluster of roofless homes, bare walls, and a carpet of disjointed bricks are all that remain of what is once said to have been a prosperous village. Sitting quiet in the sand dunes of western Rajasthan, this is just one of eightyfour such abandoned villages dotting the stark landscape. A local myth tells us that these villages were of the Paliwal Bhramins who fled their homes overnight to uphold their honour because the then primeminister of the Jaisalmer court, man called Salem Singh wanted to marry the headmans daughter against her wishes. How true this myth is, no one can tell.
Far up in the Himalayas, a couple of hours drive from the border town of Kargil, further north from the grand SrinagarLeh Highway lie the ruins of what once must have been a majestic fort. Rumoured to be taller and older than its famous cousin the Leh Palace, the Chiktan fortress is shrouded in many mysteries. Legends of its making, numerous sinister and violent events, magical tales of wondrous creations and a heartwrenching tailspin of destruction and apathy encompass the story of this fabulous fortress set in an almost fantastical location.
A thousand years ago, in an age when Buddhism was prominent in Kashmir, Ladakh and Srinagar, an exceptionally visionary scholar and translator, Lochava Rinchen Zangpo, set up a world class university a kilometre away from where the famous Thiksey monastery stands today on the outskirts of Leh town. Lonely walls and silent shrines are what stand today, mute witnesses to the times when a wonder monk walked the land. There are as many contradictions to its disappearance as there are musings about the wonders it held.