The Shadow Castle - alignthoughts

Bhangarh Fort Story Part-III

The dark black sky gradually turned into dim gray and flickering stars started disappearing one by one in the soft orange rays of the rising sun. Fire on the altar was extinguished long before the, and I was standing in the barren cremation ground with a basket full of scented oils and an entirely new look, which successfully concealed my infirmities.

I looked at those scented oils. They were no ordinary oils but bewitched. I pretended to be a perfume vendor and again entered the fort-city of Bhangarh. Whoever was asking the price of those essential oils, I asked gold and silver coins. They made faces and bantered, “Better to sell them in the palace rather than roaming in streets.”

I replied, “These are precious oils, only queens can afford to use.”

“Vendor….vendor, please,” a woman’s voice broke my contemplation. A young woman was running toward me at an incredible speed. I recognized her as one of the attendants of Ratnavati. I saw her last night on the dais. The young woman stopped before me and said, “Our beloved princess needs some Neem oil. Suddenly pimples appeared on her face. And, tomorrow is her wedding….”

“I have the oil, my lady,” I politely said, “Pure Neem oil (A medicinal tree mostly found in India).” I gave her a small bottle full of light green liquid, “apply it all over her face after taking a bath in the river. Immediately she will get relief from the pimples.”

She wanted to pay, but I refused. I said generously, “My medicines are free for the princess.” The woman happily went away with the bewitched oil. I noticed her gradual disappearance within the teeming market and dreamed of fulfilling my age-old ambition within a few hours of time.

Suddenly a hoarse voice announced that the Princess and her companions were coming out from the palace for bathing. So, all men were requested to leave the streets as soon as possible. Shopkeepers, buyers, and street vendors all started packing up things, some closed their shutters, and some went inside public buildings. Only the women remained in the street for getting a glance of their princess before the marriage, and the married ones would accompany her to the bathing ghat (A flight of steps leading down to a river).

I left the city, kept my eye in the magic mirror and followed Ratnavati’s procession to the bathing ghat (A flight of steps leading down to a river). After an hour-long walk, the procession finally reached the bathing ghat (A flight of steps leading down to a river).

Her attendants made a fabric barricade, where the princess changed her silk sari into a cotton one and took dips in the river. After coming out from the water, her attendant gave the bewitched oil in her hand and said, “The man said that you should apply it just after the bath. It will almost immediately cure your pimples.”

“Really?” The princess happily took the bottle. She could not understand how she got pimples overnight, but I knew. It was the result of my dark spells. Now she was going to apply the oil.

I imagined how Ratnavati would run toward the cremation ground just after anointing the oil on her body. Neither the King nor any royal custom would stop her to embrace me. But suddenly my contemplation broke. I saw in the mirror; the old maid had caught her hand and said, “No Princess, no!”

“Why Heerabai?” The princess astonished.

Heerabai caught her hand and said, “He has come back.”

“Who?” The princess asked overwhelmingly.

“The man, who came here five years ago with Tantric (Those who perform Tantra/ Magical ritual) Mahalankar, do you remember him?” Heera asked.

“How can I forget that great sage, who sacrificed himself only for my bright future?” She recalled sadly.

“So, you must have remembered his assistant?” Heera asked again.

“What? That perverted man?” The Princess screamed.

“Yes, he is. He has come back, and my informers said that he lives in the same cremation ground where his foster father lost his life.” Heera was going to say more, “Princess, the great sage did not voluntarily sacrifice his life, but the man killed him for stealing his power and now he is not an orphan boy but a fully grown wizard named Singhila….”

Heera hugged the princess tightly; she asked her to wear an amulet. It would save her from all evil power.

“Enough is enough!” I roared. I cast a spell, and the princess’s female attendant who bought the oil from me violently pushed Heerabai away from the princess. The princess looked at her angrily and asked the reason of her rough behavior.

The young woman under my possession replied harshly that Heera was no well-wisher of her. “Apply the oil and treat your acne, Rajkumari.” She ordered.

Heera got up from the soil; she shrieked, “Charupriya is possessed, Princess!” But before finishing her words, Ratnavati slapped tightly on Charupriya’s face, and the bottle slipped from her hand. It fell onto the ground and the glass broken into pieces. Most of the oil scattered on a huge boulder, making it moving within a second.

“Princess, the boulder,” One of her attendants pushed Ratnavati back. Others hurriedly ran toward the opposite direction. The big boulder started moving toward the cremation ground. Before realizing anything the massive stone flew toward me and smashed my body under its great weight.

With an unbearable pain, I realized that my final plan failed miserably. Now, my body was no more, and the soul was trapped inside the boulder. I had no power to move but could hear and see everything.

Hours passed, the King of Bhangarh himself came to the cremation ground, he saw my mortal remains and chuckled, “God has punished the bastard.”

“But father what about Ratnavati’s marriage?” The King’s son asked, “It means sage Mahalankar remained unsuccessful in identifying the auspicious moment of her wedding. Singhila misled us for hiding his crime. And, what about tomorrow?”

“What tomorrow?” The King dismissed his son’s doubt, “Ratnavati’s wedding will take place tomorrow.” He asked his soldiers to remove my mortal remains.

The Prince playfully touched the stone. Oh, I was still powerful enough to possess people! As he touched the stone, he came under my influence.

“Father, if you allow may I keep the stone before the main entrance? At least people will see the hero who has saved their beloved princess from an evil wizard.”

“It is risky to keep such a large boulder before the gate. If it slips, it may block the mountain trail connecting Bhangarh to Delhi. It may take the life of passersby and….”

“I’ll take care of it, father.” The young prince requested.

Finally, the king agreed, and the prince asked soldiers to place it in the central location in such a way that everyone could have a full view of the boulder. King’s soldiers arranged everything before the sunset, placed the boulder on a high pedestal, and I found myself in a new position from where Bhangarh fort’s shadow ended during the sunset.

I might not have a human body now, but my power remained as it was. I started waiting for another opportunity to take revenge.

Bhangarh Fort Story Part-IV

With a salute from the cannons placed on the ramparts, the Main Gate of the fort swung open for welcoming the marriage procession of Prince Shiladitya. A graceful arc of fireworks from the illuminating turrets of the fort welcomed the procession. Knights on horseback moved forward and entered first, followed by the royal elephant, caparisoned with jewel-studded headcloth and an ornamental Howdah (a carriage which is positioned on the back of an elephant or camel) on its back.

As the elephant came under the boulder and its shadow cast on its rider, the prince looked curiously at the stone and inquired about it.

Ratnavati’s brother came closer to the prince on his horseback. He started describing the story with great manipulation and started insulting me and my great power.

Suddenly anger and hatred rose within me at the full extreme, and my fury was enough to move the boulder for the second time. The huge boulder fell on Prince Shiladitya smashing his mortal body under its great weight. Everything happened within a few seconds, leaving people panicked and terrorized. The groom’s father directly blamed Ratnavati’s brother for killing his son and challenged King Chandra Bhan in the battleground.

Gradually, the peace and prosperity of Bhangarh lost on the battleground. Ratnavati’s father and brother died, passing the throne in the hand of her distant uncle, a step-brother of late king Chandra Bhan. Now the princess was all alone; she had neither the brigade of attendants nor the loyal knights to protect her. Only the old maid Heera remained faithful to the princess.

I again found myself powerful enough to possess those who were living under the shadow of Bhangarh. The new King and his family, all were under my evil possession. Half of the population of Bhangarh worshiped the boulder as Satan’s Stone, but unfortunately, my power had no impact on Heera and Ratnavati.

Under my evil spell, the king asked Ratnavati to surrender herself before Satan’s Stone. The wizard’s soul would not allow anyone to live peacefully, unless and until he got hold of her. As a princess, Ratnavati had no right to destroy the kingdom’s peace and prosperity.

Finally, Ratnavati agreed. She had no other way but to follow the King’s order. Ultimately the day came. Ratnavati came out from the fort, but not in bridal attires but a simple saffron sari, followed by Heera and her remaining relatives.

People of Bhangarh were already gathered around the entrance, and I was eagerly waiting for her to come under the shadow of the boulder. As the shadow would fall on her beautiful body, her soul would be mine, and it would release me forever from the cursed boulder.

Suddenly a chorus melody of sacred chants broke my contemplation. A group of men and women clad in saffron robes and saris was walking toward Bhangarh. They were chanting the sacred names of the Almighty that made my spells powerless for a while.

A tall, lean man with a bald head, dressed in saffron dhoti and cloth, walked toward Heera and Ratnavati. Heera introduced the man, “Princess, he is my Gurudev (Mentor), Acharya Sri Bidyaratna.”

Ratnavati was probably prepared for him. She looked back and found a confused look on her uncle’s face. She clarified and expressed her desire of joining the sacred order of Acharya Sri Vidyaratna. The King had no other way but to accept because a King could not refuse a sage.

Acharya Sri Vidyaratna taught her the sacred mantra and welcomed her to join his Ashram. Chanting the sacred names of Sri Ram, Ratnavati crossed the cursed shadow of Bhangarh fort and gradually disappeared beyond the hill.

“NOOOOO”….I screamed and cursed the entire kingdom. A Famine broke out; battle wrecked the fort and time ruined the city of Bhangarh and its magnificent palace forever. However, I remained trapped inside Satan’s Rock forever.

Centuries passed, but people still dare to cross the shadow of Bhangarh after Evenfall, but I am still waiting for her, Princess Ratnavati. Only and only she can lift my curse forever.

The story is loosely based on famous folklore of Bhangargh castle of Rajasthan, India. However, the legend is reconstructed and new characters were introduced in the story. It is purely based on the author’s imagination and does not claim any historicity.
Mala Mukherjee is an academician by profession who has completed her Doctoral Degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and currently working as an Assistant Professor in a Research Institute. She was born in Kolkata and began her literary career in her mid-twenties when her short stories were published on various websites during Halloween. She is an author by passion, an impulsive writer, who enjoys writing horror stories, paranormal and fantasy fiction.