Kutch Diaries: Experience of the Lifetime

Words by Suman Bajpai

Kutch is not all about Rann Utsav which is held every year and attracts thousands of people to witness the beauty and charisma of nature, it is something more. Undoubtedly, Kutch is a unique region of Gujarat in different ways. It is geographically diverse with rugged terrain, a long coastline, white desert and marshes. Culturally, it is a very rich place as its dance, music and embroidery and above all the food attracts people from all over the world.

‘Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha’, these lines always echo in our ears, especially because it was said by Amitabh Bachchan. So, when I set foot in Kutch, Gujarat’s largest district, the face of Big B emerged in front of me. I was not certain initially that what our superhero claims would be true, but during my 3 days stay there I had realized that yes in a real sense Kutch has the power to mesmerize visitors.

 Rann Utsav – a celebration of vibrancy

Obviously, when you are in Kutch, the first halt you have to visit is Dhordo village and stay in the tent city. It has all the amenities you asked for according to the tents. More than 400 Tents across 9 Clusters, spread in an area of 5,00,000 sq. mt. Organised annually by Gujarat Tourism, between November and February, the Rann Utsav in Kutch has been gaining popularity among Indian and foreign travellers since its inception. the previous few years. Though it’s surely an interesting effort by Gujarat Tourism allowing people to revisit Kutch after it was left devastated by the 2001 earthquake, by creating a travel story linking to Kutch’s geographical and cultural distinctions.

Nature plays a major role here to make Rann Utsav successful, which is one of the most eagerly-awaited tourism events of India. It is a celebration of the marvels of nature at the White Desert and the rich cultural and artistic heritage of Kutch. The concept of Rann Utsav was envisioned by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

What began as a three-day festival progressively evolved into a 100-day celebration. Since its inception, the Rann Utsav booking has multiplied exponentially, attracting over 5,00,000 visitors from 20+ countries.

Charisma of nature

Whether it is a sunrise, sunset or witness the white desert in the moonlight, the experience is so amazing that you just want to sit on the salty desert and feel the beauty and glory of nature, which reflects in every nook and corner of that vast spread desert.

When you visit in the early morning or late evening when the hot and cool air renders the journey pleasant, the white serene expanse that lies along the India-Pak border considered to be the largest salt desert in the world looks stunning. As the moonlight merges into the white desert the wonderful White Rann is a treat for the nature-lovers.

The sunrise was just as spectacular so as the sunset. After witnessing the enchanting sunset, watching a full moonlit desert gives an unmatched travel experience.

With traditional dance forms and musical moments, many thrilling activities like cultural act shows, camel safari, parasailing and dirt biking enhance different colours of the extravaganza.

Kalo Dungar

Just at a distance of 35 kilometres, Kalo Dungar, (black hills) also known as the black hill is the tallest peak in Kutch district of Gujarat. Located at 462 Mt heights, it is the best place for a panoramic view of Rann of Kutch. As you enter this place first thing you saw is a temple. Local people have great respect for the 400 years old Dattatreya temple. It is a magnetic hill; the gravity is higher than the Ladak. When I stopped the car to check, the car started going faster without using an accelerator.

Bhuj

The next destination was Bhuj, which is well connected by road, rail and air to almost all the major cities in Gujarat and India. Already I had booked a taxi for 3 days, so free from all the tension of deciding about the transportation. The city gets its name from the Bhujiyo Dungar hillock that overlooks the city about 3 km from the city centre. Fine examples of Gujarati architecture can be found in the form of houses and temples. It is heaven for tourists who love embroidered textiles. I would say it is the best place to purchase these things. The major attractions are the Aina Mahal, the bell tower in Prag Mahal, Kshtrapa inscriptions in the Kutch museum, which is believed to be the oldest museum in the region, and Hamirsar Lake.

Nirona Village -artisans hub

Famous for its ancient art form of Rogan Art, handmade copper bells and lacquer work, Nirona village is a place where everyone should go if in Kutch. Artists give live demo here. Khatri family is practising and preserving the unique art form of Rogan. From this place which is just a small village and not even has roads, has something which stops you there for a long time. I think it is the vibes that artists and art ooze out.

Chattris are not be missed

Although it was already evening and I was a bit tired also, but once I had reached the Chattri ruins, I had forger all my tiredness. The “Chhatris” complex at Chattardi was constructed sometime in the 18th century to glorify the cenotaphs of the Rao’s of Kutch. Most of them were constructed by Jadeja ruler Rao Lakhpatji. Most of the Chattris have almost disappeared into rubble piles as a result of the earthquake of 2001. Still, the remaining pieces of history were enchanting. These cenotaphs served as memorial grounds for the royal family. Inside the complex, there are many different types of Chhatris. I really loved the detailing on the tombstone. Most of the floral designs were there.

The cenotaph of Rao Lakhpatji is situated on the northern side of the Chattardi complex. The main Chhatri used to be supported by decorative pillars, a fine specimen of Kutch architecture.  I was amazed by the semi damaged beautiful sculptures of the deities and people in local costumes. It had many individual balconies. The structure used to be covered with a roof with intricate carvings but currently they lie scattered around the tombstone.

Little Rann of Kutch

The next day I had arrived to Patdi, a small, less populated village. At a distance of 10 kilometres situated most talked about Wild ass sanctuary. Also known as Little Rann of Kutch, and from my resort, I had covered this journey in Jeep Safari. It was one of its kind experience as around 6.30 in the morning; the cool breeze was soothing me even in the month of December. While sitting in the jeep, I had a feeling that I am on some adventure trip. Indeed, it was the one.

Largely unexplored, infinitely exotic and full of unique experiences the little Rann of Kutch is one of its kind habitats in the world. This remarkable landscape is a vast unbroken bare flatland encrusted with salt covering an area of 4954 square kilometres. After the monsoon, the whole place transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland. The only haven of the Asiatic Wild Ass and the favoured breeding ground of many rare bird species, the Little Rann offers innumerable sights and unforgettable experiences.

The Little Rann has one of India’s largest wildlife enclaves- the Wild Ass Sanctuary. The Wild Ass is a graceful animal that looks like a crop cross between a horse and donkey and possesses the strength of the former. The Wild Asses are known to run at an average speed of 50 km per hour for long distances. This Sanctuary also is home to blue bulls, Chinkara and the blackbuck.

It was time to go back, but I had decided that I would come again. I had reached Ahmedabad and took my flight to Delhi.

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