The Kankeshwar Episode
It was a dark night, the moon had not yet risen. My friends Vinod and Nitin were with me on a weekend outing to a place called Zirad. It is 13 km from Alibaug, about 100 km from Mumbai.
It was 2 am and we were on a night trek to the famous temple of Kankeshwar. When we had started from Zirad at 1.30 am, a cool breeze was blowing, insects were telecommunicating and fireflies were light-housing. Once or twice we could hear from a distance, long blasts of ship-horns negotiating the Manhattan of India.
Now we had reached the foothills of Kankeshwar and we started to walk up the hill. The path was narrow, not the usual route to the temple; a shortcut that I had taken on numerous occasions during day trekking.
Nitin: " I hope there are no wild-cats or tigers here."
Me: " There were, but there aren't, all of them either killed by humans or captured and in a zoo."
Now, the moon had risen, but it was behind the hills. The path led us through a thick growth of Teak, Sal, Peepal, and wild bushes. We could hear wolves howling nearby. The climb was difficult. On the left below, we could see dim lights of Zirad settlements. There was an unusual gloom in the atmosphere. The glow of moonlight behind the hills was becoming brighter, but on the other side, the sky was covered by dark nimbus and it started drizzling. The contrast in the sky was making it eerier.
After a while, we emerged into a clearing. Now there was total calm, the wolves had stopped howling. On the west, over the sea, little away the mighty cumulonimbus had started their activity and there were flashes of lightning, followed by thunder.
Soon we came to dilapidated fencing.
Me: "I think, I must have taken a wrong path, as during daytime I hadn't seen such fencing."
Not far away on the top of the hill, we could see the temple lights. We decided to follow the same path. We crossed the fencing and emerged int0 a very old cemetery. By the dates on the graves, we could make out that it was 150 years old. We crawled through the gap in the fencing and walked out on the other side.
Vinod: "Boy, this place gives me the shivers."
Me (half-jokingly): "Don't worry this place doesn't look haunted."
After a few minutes of walking through the bushes and trees.
Vinod: "Hey! look at that light."
Nitin: "Which light? Where?"
We saw a very strange flickering light coming out of an old tumbled shack.
As we got close to the shack, a loud flash of lightning and thunder boomed nearby.
In the light of the flash, we could see a figure pacing the shack porch. As we got nearer, the figure turned towards us and started advancing forward. It was clad in green and wore old-fashioned clothes. There was something very unusual and the flickering light we had seen before was coming from its lantern. Also, the lantern light was passing through it.
With a very strong resonating voice it yelled, "Go! this is the place of the dead. The living has no place here."
Suddenly, it disappeared and torrential rain followed. We started running back, the wolves had started howling again. We crossed the old cemetery and heard a blood-curdling scream.
We reached our guesthouse at dawn and slept for few hours. We were awakened by Mahadu, the staff member. Wanting to know more we asked him about the cemetery and shack.
Mahadu: "Oh! Did you boys take a path through the cemetery? No one goes near there, the old cemetery was for the British soldiers who had died fighting the Siddhis, hundreds of years back. Please don't go there, strange things have happened before."
- written by me in 1987