This is one of the most bizarre stories of human migration one can hear.

Drive 18 km west of Jaisalmer and you will come upon the village of Kuldhara. Once a prosperous settlement of the Paliwal Brahmins, all the residents of Kuldhara and 83 nearby villages vanished suddenly one night in 1825, having lived there since 1291. In all likelihood they set up base somewhere beyond Jodhpur but no one has ever been sure.

The Paliwals made their fortune by the sheer brilliance of their business and agricultural acumen. They knew the art of growing a water intensive crop like wheat in the Thar desert; they could identify areas with gypsum rock layers running under the ground surface to ensure water was retained for the crops. The rulers depended on the Paliwals for much of their tax revenues.

What made them want to abandon everything overnight? The Prime Minister, or the dewan, is believed to have developed a lecherous eye for the chief’s daughter; it is said the Paliwal women were in general stunningly beautiful. He may even have imposed unreasonable taxes on them. With pride and honour overruling all worldly interests, the chiefs of the 84 villages decided to go away in a single night with whatever they could carry with them.

Where are the Paliwals now? Scattered all over the world. And generally doing well going by their genetic lineage. It is said they even left a curse on the villages, bringing death and suffering to anyone who tried to live in these villages. For the Paliwals, this was not the first migration. Before Kuldhara, according to some accounts, they had left Pali near Jodhpur from where they originally came from; it was to escape additional war taxes being imposed by the king.

Looks like the royalty of Rajasthan had made an art of killing the geese that laid golden eggs for them.

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