I am an avid trekker and a nature lover. Despite a hectic work schedule, I try to take some time time off every year and visit wild life sanctuaries, forts etc. This is the only time when I am really at peace with myself. The unpolluted surroundings and clean air helps rejuvenate me and fills me with a lot of positive feelings. Having done a lot of treks, I have encountered a some strange occurrences in the jungles and the forts which I have visited. The incident which I am about to relate is one of them.
This incident happened during my bachelor days when I visited my cousin who stays in Shimoga, Karnataka. My cousin Nitesh was getting married and since he was the only child in the house, the wedding was to be a grand affair with all the relatives invited for the ceremony. I was lucky to get around ten days leave from work. I checked out with my other cousins and found out that Ram, Bala & Gaurish had also made similar plans. I was very happy that I would have company during my visit. It also gave us some time to explore the surrounding countryside after the festivities were over.
As planned, we reached Nitesh's house a couple of days before the wedding along with our families. We were given a warm welcome by my uncle, aunt & Nitesh who were more than happy to see us. The next few days were spent in preparing for the grand occasion and all of us contributed whole heartedly towards the cause. The wedding celebrations went fine and we were dead tired at the end of it. After sending off the newly wedded couple for their honeymoon, we had some days to explore the countryside. Shimoga is a very beautiful place with a lot of natural beauty around. Apart from a lot of beautiful ancient temples, there is a also dense forest nearby which is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. After taking a day to visit some nearby temples, we decided to venture into the forest and camp there for a night.
Our parents were reluctant at first but later relented since we decided to take Nitesh's friend, Satchin who is a local, along with us. Satchin knows the area like the back of his hand and was a handy aide to have on such a trip. We accordingly made arrangements for the same and started off early in the morning at around 4.30 am. We traversed around 50 kms by Nitesh's old Gypsy which was driven by Satchin until we came to the outskirts of the town, Satchin knew a couple of people in the small hamlet where we parked our vehicle. After having a cup of tea there we proceeded into the forest at close to 5.45 am. The walk through the forest and seeing the sunrise was absolutely enchanting to say the least. What once seemed like a quiet and lifeless place was soon filled with various sounds of birds and animals. We asked Satchin, supposedly our guide, as to where we were going. He told us that he was taking us to a place which he had visited a long time ago. It was a temple built during ancient times in the middle of the forest. He did not disclose anything else as he wanted to keep it a surprise. We walked through the forest path clicking photographs and generally enjoying the pleasant weather. After a short halt at around 11 am for a quick bite we generally walked without a break until we reached our destination at around 2.30pm.
The temple was right in front of us. At first it seemed like a normal temple but something about it gave me the creeps. It was built of black laterite stone which is common in these parts. The main temple stood in the center and was quite imposing indeed. At one corner there was an old unused well which might have provided water to the erstwhile inhabitants of the temple. At the extreme left corner of the temple grounds there was a two storied structure which had around twenty rooms & looked like a pilgrim quarters which used to house pilgrims in transit. There were also some strange platforms around the temple which seemed like sacrificial altars used for conducting ritual sacrifices. We slowly began exploring the place. We found it strange that there was no idol anywhere inside even though there was a place for it. When we questioned Satchin about it, he finally told us the story which was told to him by one of locals who stayed in one of the nearby villages.
The temple itself was quite old was built perhaps in the 9th -10th century A.D. The forest which we saw around us was once a prosperous town. For some unknown reason it was abandoned by people and then nature took over once again. A curse might have been the most likely cause of the towns abandonment, though not much is known about it. The temple lay in ruins for many centuries before it was finally discovered. It is rumored that the temple was taken over by a Tantric Cult in the early nineteenth century which carried out Black Magic and other practices shunned by the simple village folk. Since these practices are shunned by the normal people, they were carried out in utmost secrecy especially on new moon or full moon nights. Villagers claimed to hear weird sounds coming from the forest and the place was generally avoided. Earlier the nearby villages used to report loss of hens, goats and other poultry animals regularly. This was generally attributed to a wild dog or a panther who had strayed inside the village. The culprits however were never apprehended.
Then something sinister happened. Within the space of three weeks, three children aged between three and five years were reported missing. People were generally alarmed and a manhunt was launched to apprehend the culprits and find the missing children.
The police superintendent at that time was an Englishman by the name of John Walters. He was a brave man and genuinely sympathized with the villagers. After assuring them that the guilty would soon be brought to justice, he began his investigations. He found out from the villagers about the Black Temple and the sinister activities which were carried out there. Armed with adequate reinforcements he raided the place on one full moon night where a human sacrifice was about to be performed. There was a lot of resistance from the fifty odd men and women who resided there but finally managed to subdue them. The cult members were filthy, almost naked with bodies covered with ash. They looked really loathsome indeed. Walters however was unperturbed and took the lot in his custody. However what he hadn't anticipated was the extent of the evil that was happening there. The raiding police party was aghast when they discovered piles of human bones and carcasses dumped inside a pit nearby waiting to be burnt. There were around fifty bodies or more & to confirm their worst fears, they also found the bodies of the 3 children who were reported missing a few weeks before. Surprisingly none of these missing people had been reported to the local police.
Word immediately spread about the discovery of the bodies & before Walters could bring the guilty to the police station, the locals forcibly took the cult members in their custody and burnt them all to death on the very grounds where they had committed these horrendous crimes. Walters knew that the law had been broken but he was after all a human being and understood the pain of the people. The matter was hushed up and no one spoke about the incident there after. However it was rumored that the spirits of the unholy cult members as well as the hapless victims haunted the area and strange happenings were reported on full moon and new moon nights. People shunned the place like plague.
Now this was the story told to us by Satchin... But he himself did not know whether it was true or fabricated by the village folk. It seemed like a tale concocted out of a Bollywood Masala movie. However something didn't seem right about the place. I could definitely feel strong negative vibes coming from it.
After hearing the story from Satchin, Bala and Gaurish were scared wanted to leave the place immediately. However Ram and Satchin comforted them and told them the story might be a whole lot of gibberish after all. It was close to 4pm and it would have been impossible to head back and reach home. There was also a risk of getting lost in the forest in the dark. Our best bet therefore was to spend the night inside the main temple and leave early morning next day. To make matters worse, it somehow started raining when it was in the peak of the summer season. Dark clouds suddenly covered the sky and it started pouring cats and dogs.
We had to take shelter inside the temple which seemed safe at present. Slowly unpacking our things we tried to make ourselves comfortable inside.
The temple had a huge hall where devotees might have gathered for prayers and there was a place at the far end of the hall where the main idol might have been placed. There were three entrances into the temple, one from the front and one each from the right and left sides. The place was in ruins as it had not been in use for a long time. Ram & Satchin, the brave ones explored the temple which was quite dark inside and tried to ensure that it was safe, lest a wild animal might have made the place its den in the absence of any human existence nearby. No animal was found and we were therefore reassured and sat down and hungrily ate sandwiches which we had packed for the trip. The depressing weather coupled with the rains made Gaurish really nervous but there was nothing that we could do until the next morning. We were extremely tired after the days trek and decided to take a nap which we hoped would refresh us.
It was close to 8 pm when Ram and I woke up. The others were still sleeping. When I peeked outside, I found out that the rains had stopped and the whole area was dark as there it was a new moon night. It felt very eerie indeed in that strange place and I couldn't help wondering how Gaurish would feel upon waking up. Ram told me that he wanted to go out to answer the call of nature. I volunteered to come along but he told me that he would be fine and would be back in a jiffy. I told him to be care and take the torch along with him.
In the meanwhile Satchin, Gaurish, and Bala had also woken up. Gaurish seemed nervous and Bala and Satchin were busy consoling him when suddenly Ram came running inside. He was dirty and covered with mud, breathless & seemed very scared. He was initially incoherent but after drinking some water, calmed down sufficiently to tell us what had happened.
He had gone to the edge of the temple grounds to relieve himself since being a hindu, he didn't want to disturb the sanctity of the place. Suddenly he heard a noise coming from behind. He flashed his light in the direction of the noise but couldn't see anything apart from the dark forest. He ignored it thinking that his mind was playing tricks on him. When he was relieving himself beneath a tree he felt someone standing very close behind him, when he turned around he saw a faint figure of a woman and a child standing a few feet away from him. He was startled at these events but quickly gathered his wits and tried to find his torch. But when he flashed torchlight there was no one there. He was absolutely sure that he had seen somebody and was scared indeed. He quickly started running towards the temple to tell us what had happened. Unfortunately, in the dark he slipped in the wet mud and fell down. When he was trying to slowly get up, he heard someone laughing hysterically behind him. This time, gathering his entire strength he ran towards the main temple entrance somehow and found us there.
Satchin and Gaurish were calming Ram down when I and Bala decided to check the rest of the two entrances to the temple to see whether there was anyone there. I checked the second entrance and found nothing unusual there. However there was a small room in the temple which we hadn't checked before. I cautiously stepped inside and flashed my light inside the room. It was completely empty but absolutely clean as if someone was staying there. Before I could think of returning and informing the others about my discovery, I heard a noise behind me. I immediately turned around and saw three women standing at the door. Their attire was strange and not in tune with current times. They had ash smeared on their foreheads and hair left open.
One lady had a light in her hand while the other two stood behind her staring at me. Then slowly they started advancing towards me inside the room. I was trapped inside as there was no other exit from the room. Expecting the worst, I crouched to one corner with the trio advancing steadily towards me. When they were a couple of feet from me, gathering all my will power and strength, I held a locket of lord Maruti (which I always wear around my neck) tightly, closed my eyes and said a silent prayer! When I opened my eyes I found the room dark and empty except for the beam of light coming from my flashlight. Not wasting a moment, I rushed out to be with my friends.
In the meanwhile Bala was at the third entrance where he suddenly saw some people lighting a fire for some tantric ritual which was about to be performed. Bala later told us that their description exactly matched the satanic cult members who had been burnt alive on the grounds over a century ago. Both of us returned to the rest of the gang almost at the same time sweating profusely. We both related our own personal nightmares to the rest. Not wanting to spend another minute at the unholy place we immediately started packing our backs to leave. It was around 10 pm at that time.
As soon as we were outside the temple, an eerie site greeted us. We saw the 3 ladies whom I had seen in the room along with the men seen by Bala outside standing a couple of meters away from the main temple entrance staring at us angrily for disturbing their ritual. Not knowing what more to expect we ran out as far as our legs could carry us leaving the temple grounds behind us.
We were now in the main forest area without a clue as to where we were. Heaving a sigh of relief, we started walking, hoping that our ordeal was finally over. We were horribly wrong in this assumption. Whichever route we seemed to take in the forest seemed to bring us back to the same spot which was just outside the temple grounds. We tried at least 5 different routes but all of them seemed to bring us back to the same spot. It was as if some unseen force was trying to prevent us from leaving the place.
It was around 1 am when we're totally exhausted and sat down below a tree scared as hell. Were we trapped in this place forever? Was one of the questions continuously running through our minds. To make matters worse, we could also hear loud sounds coming from within the temple grounds. None of us had the guts to go and check it out even though we were only a short distance away from the unholy place.
With time coming to a virtual standstill and all hope lost, I suddenly had an idea. I coerced the rest of the gang to recite "Hanuman Chalisa" which is supposed to keep evil spirits away and protect you. We started chanting the hymn as loudly as possible. As we did so, we found a strange sense of calm coming over us. We suddenly felt more confident and our courage returned. The voices within the temple grounds went silent as if a greater power had summoned them to do so.
We continuously prayed until around 4 am after which we finally fell asleep exhausted. When we woke up, I looked at my watch. It was 6.30 am and just about time for sunrise. I quickly woke the others and we left the place not once bothering to look back inside the temple grounds. Things were absolutely normal and we reached habitation in a couple of hours. We narrated our tale to the locals there who at first chided us for being foolish enough to visit that place even after knowing its history. They told us that we were very lucky to have escaped alive from that unholy place which they said had been a virtual death trap for many. There were many people in the past who had gone there and were never seen again.
After having some refreshments, we started back and reached home by around 5 pm. We did not tell anyone about our adventure and quietly went to sleep. We were definitely shaken by the events which occurred during our trip but managed to conceal our discomfort. We left for Mumbai a few days later.
On our way back to Mumbai, we were introspecting about the incidents which had happened during our trip.
The Lady and the child seen by Bala might have been victims of the cult members.
The three women seemed to be female members of the cult.
The men at the temple grounds might have been the main Tantrik's who performed the unholy rituals.
We were all very happy to have survived the ordeal and our faith in God as a higher power was reinforced to a large extent. No one had any doubts in their mind that it was God alone who had saved us from tragedy that night.