Kuldhara’s twin village awaits its turn on the tourist map

JAISALMER: The rising popularity of the ancient village of has given hopes to its twin, Khaba, 19km away from it. One of the 84 villages to be abandoned by Paliwal Brahmins 200 years ago, ‘s resemblance to Kuldhara now has villagers living nearby waiting eagerly for tourist footfalls.
“According to history, a total of 84 villages were abandoned by Paliwal Brahmins centuries ago on the eve of a Budh Poornima after they were persecuted by the then Diwan of Jaisalmer, Salim Singh. With the passage of time, almost all these villages have been repopulated except for the three villages of Kuldhara, Khaba and Nebia. From ruins to stories, Khaba evokes the same image and aura of Kuldhara. With Kuldhara being modernised, we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that tourists would be attracted to Khaba to get a feel of the ancient,” says Deep Singh Soda, a villager living close to the ruins in .

Soda and others are living on the stretch of land adjacent to the ruins but have been careful not to disturb the ruins of Khaba itself. “The village was deserted by Paliwals unwillingly. No one would want to leave their houses just like that. So, we have been careful not to use even a single stone from the ruins to construct our houses here. We feel that the stones at Khaba are cursed. We have let them remain as they were since centuries,” he says.

Though much smaller than Kuldhara, Khaba is equally a maze of ruins. “Surprisingly, none of the houses here have their roofs intact. But the walls and construction of houses in Khaba are identical to that of Kuldhara. The tales are similar too. We don‘t venture amongst the ruins at night,” says , another villager of New Khaba. “This place will remain as it is and we won‘t let the government modernize Khaba like they have done to Kuldhara,” he adds.

While Khaba ruins might be smaller compared to Kuldhara, the presence of a fort nearby adds to the ambience. Called the Khaba fort and renovated recently, it sits atop a hillock just opposite to the village.

Maintained by the Jaisalmer Development Authority (JDA), a gallery of ancient fossils, built across the fort, has enhanced its tourism potential. But that‘s not all. The fort offers a magnificent view of villages spread across the landscape. Migratory birds and peacocks can be seen at the fort, attracted by nearby cultivation around a ‘khadins‘ (water body).

“Some tourists are coming to Khaba these days. First, they go to Kuldhara but then continue their journey till Khaba to get a real feel of an ancient Paliwal village,” says , the caretaker of the Khaba fort.

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