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The courthouse of Mallarpur

Rocky Singh | Updated on July 04, 2014

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Rocky Singh

BLink_The ghost issue.eps

At Kacheri Baari in Bengal, scars run deep, and the air hangs heavy with tales of persecution

Our story is set in Bengal, in a small village called Mallarpur. It’s just 20km away from the tantric shrine of Tarapith, where the goddess Tara is worshipped. Tara is the second of the Dasa Mahavidyas (10 Great Wisdoms), unquenchable and eternal like a star. Tarapith is a centre of tantric learning and activity, where people bring those whom they believe to be possessed to be exorcised.

As you drive to Mallarpur, off the now busy highway, you will see a grand old ruin dominating the landscape for miles around. This is the Kacheri Baari or the Court House. Built in the late 18th century, this building must have been stunning in its heyday. As you enter through a once grand, but now rusted metal gate, you come into the front lawn, about 50 yards long. At the end of it, like a giant spider, sits the Kacheri Baari. A haunted house.

In 1759, as Mir Qasim rode through his father’s realm, he came across a Rajasthani sadhu sitting under a tree and meditating along the banks of the Ganga at Murshidabad. Qasim wanted to be the nawab and asked the sadhu when it would come to pass. The sadhu laughed and said, “Since you are in such a hurry, this will happen within a month.” Lo and behold! the British, who had brought his father Mir Jafar to the throne, replaced the father with the son within a month. The new Nawab went to the sadhu, bowed his head, and gave him three estates in return at Birbhum (West Bengal) and Munger (Bihar) and Jessore in present-day Bangladesh. The sadhu, a Brahmachari (celibate), adopted descendants and served well the people in his charge as did his sons. But his grandchildren became drunk with power and the good life.

Intoxicated, they rode through their lands, and abducted any and all the women they found desirable. These women were brought to the Kacheri Baari forcibly and made to live there as nautch girls. Those who complained disappeared, and those who bore this agony in silence spent their miserable youth in this hellish home that had now become a centre of debauchery and sin. Their family members who came to save them were either paid off or beaten till they left; many disappeared like the women who were enslaved, raped and tortured. Kacheri Baari bore silent witness to it all. In time, the power and fortune of Mir Qasim’s family was squandered, and the descendants moved away, leaving this once grand home deserted.

Mahadev Bhandari, the grandson of the last accountant to serve in this house, still lives here. He tells this story with passion and conviction.

Another resident, 54-year-old Ashok Roy, remembers when he was 10 or 12 years old, some men came to excavate and convert Kacheri Baari into a rice mill. Soon after they started digging the foundations, there was a sudden commotion. One of the labourers had unearthed human skulls and bones. One was almost complete and the others in pieces. Ashok and the other boys recall the confusion that followed, and the whiteness of the skulls, before they were chased away by the contractor. Everyone in the village believes they were the skeletons of the women who disappeared in the Baari.

Most of them believe the skeleton belonged to the one they dread seeing most. Their grandparents told stories of the unfortunate ones who saw her. She still lives at the Kacheri Baari. Many in the village claim to have heard the sounds of her payal (anklets). She appears rarely, and those who are unfortunate enough to see her, die within three months of the sighting. She is the harbinger of doom. Her last victim was returning from work and decided to take a shortcut through the lawns of the home. His attention was suddenly drawn to a movement on the wall and there she sat. He told the villagers that she was pretty with dark hair and eyes, and swung her legs while looking at him with a cocked head as she hummed a sad tune. He told them that she had a menacing, almost crazed look on her face and that there was something strange about her mouth. She constantly moved it in a strange circular motion and he stared, unable to look away. He felt an aura of malevolence. She stared at him almost as if she wished to do him harm and as he stood rooted to the spot in fear, she slowly smiled and disappeared into thin air. He could no longer sleep well as she would come in his dreams and scare him. As the weeks went by, he wasted away and died within three months.

The other one, they say, is also angry. She wears a white sari with flowers in her hair and lashes out at anyone who sees her. Vinod Bahadur, the night watchman, lives near the entrance in a small room. As he and his wife slept one night, he was suddenly awakened by the sound of steel utensils falling. As he opened his eyes, he saw her standing at the head of his bed, looking down at him. Before he could react, she leapt on his chest and pinned him to the bed. He remembers not being able to move or even breathe as she sat on his chest, her hair wild. She looked angry and he closed his eyes, unable to look upon her frightful face, and started praying. The weight then slowly lifted off his chest. His wife next to him slept peacefully through it all. Bahadur claims he sees the apparition every few weeks, and closes his eyes and prays. As long as he doesn’t stare at her, she goes away.

I spent a night alone at Kacheri Baari. The villagers say that it’s safe for women and only men are attacked, but I never saw either of the women. I never heard the sounds of the payal, the most common of the hauntings. As I climbed up the stairs above the place where the skeletons had been discovered, I distinctly heard the sound of bare feet climbing the stairs behind me. I turned and shone my flashlight at the sound, and there was nothing there.

As I sat in the main room of the Baari at night, I felt a sense of unease, an aura of hatred and anger. I felt a negative energy and a great sadness that I was unable to explain. More than once I thought I heard someone humming a low sad song, but I can’t be certain.

The events that took place here are tragic. The villagers believe the spirits of the girls live in that house and will live there till someone finally brings them peace. I hope it happens, even though no one knows how, and I do hope it happens soon, because I, for one, believe that they are still there. Go, see for yourself.

Rocky Singh is the host of India’s Most Haunted on NDTV Good Times

Published on July 04, 2014

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