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India: Gujarat: Adalaj, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Little Rann of Kutch, Mandvi, Modhera, Nal Sarovar, Patan, Rann of Kutch
Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India: Sparkling in moonlight
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The Great Rann of Kutch, along with the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands on its southern edge, is situated in the district of Kutch and comprises some 30,000 square kilometres between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of the Indus River in southern Pakistan. In India's summer monsoon, the flat desert of salty clay and mudflats, which average 15 meters above sea level, fills with standing water. In very wet years, the wetland extends from the Gulf of Kutch on the west through to the Gulf of Cambay on the east. When the water dries up, it leaves behind miles and miles of white salt crystals that shimmer, especially on full moon nights.
Exploring the White Desert on a full moon night was the prime motive of our 3 day trip in the region. We reached the Gorewali Resort late in the afternoon. The resort has 12 Bhunga (traditional, round huts with thatched roof) complete with local decor. Nothing fancy about this resort except for the fact that it does provide all the basic facilities and 3 wholesome vegetarian meals every day with an interesting campfire with piped music in the night. The resort is very near to the White Desert.
We arrived on 13th December. 14th was a full moon night. That gave us the opportunity to have 2-nights of outing. It's important that visitors make advance bookings in earlier months. Things can get very expensive on full moon nights during the winter months when the Rann Festival is also on. Our driver was an expert of the region and doubled up as a amateur guide too. There's a fee of Rs 100 per person to enter the Rann. The ticket can be purchased in the town of Bhiranidayara, about midway between Bhuj and Rann of Kutch. It can also be purchased on site.
The area was a vast shallow of the Arabian Sea until continuing geological uplift closed off the connection with the sea, creating a vast lake that was still navigable during the time of Alexander the Great. The Ghaggar River, which presently empties into the desert of northern Rajasthan, formerly emptied into the Rann of Kutch, but the lower reaches of the river dried up as its upstream tributaries were captured by the Indus and Ganges thousands of years ago. The Luni River, which originates in Rajasthan, drains into the desert in the northeast corner of the Rann. Other rivers feeding into the marsh include the Rupen from the east and the West Banas River from the northeast.
There are sandy islets of thorny scrub, forming a wildlife sanctuary and a breeding ground for some of the largest flocks of greater and lesser flamingos. Wildlife, including the Indian wild ass, shelter on islands of higher ground, called bets, during the flooding.
On the day of our arrival, The Rann Utsav (Festival) was officially being inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Gujarat State. The security was beefed up. We had to park our cars quite away. However, shuttle buses were provided to transfer the visitors to the viewing towers. Being a sensitive area, Border Security Force were in full control.
Rann Utsav is an awesome festival of Kutch which happens for 3 months typically in the months of December, January and February. It is a carnival of music, dance, and feasting. And most importantly experiencing the mesmerising beauty of the White Desert, especially on a full moon night. To add to to the fun at the festival, some adventure activities also take place. Golf Cart, ATV Ride, Camel Cart Excursion, Para motoring, Meditation, Yoga are a few of them.
Kutch is blessed with one of the most ecologically and culturally abundant landforms. The brimming profusion of nature’s beauty, culture and tradition, superfluity of colors and celebration, amalgamation of joy and beauty, all add up to reflect the kaleidoscopic Kutch. The distinctive folk dances and music, intricate arts and crafts, gracious people and nature along with the affluent handicraft culture of the district like folk textiles, exquisite embroidery, Bandhani sarees, traditional ornaments and mirror work are some of the specialties of the region. Many of these have reached the region after centuries of migration from neighbouring regions of Marwar (Western Rajasthan), Sindh, Afghanistan and beyond.
As fate would have it, because of the late seasonal rains, the water hadn't dried up completely. It was white alright, but the crystals were yet to be formed. It was slush which was made more prominent by visitors stamping! Probably, January would have been a better month. So be it. When I get a chance, I will certainly come back! I did get a few pictures, but wasn't happy. There was hope for the next day.
The next morning after breakfast, we visited Kala Dungar and India Bridge. It was a 2-hour one way drive.
Kala Dungar or Black Hill is the highest point in Kutch. It's at an elevation of 462 metres and is also famous for its 400-year old temple of Lord Dattatreya. Kala Dungar is very close to the Indo Pak Border and has an army post on top. Legend has it that when Dattatreya walked on the earth, he stopped at the Black Hill and found a band of starving jackals. Being a God, he offered them his body to eat and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. Because of this, for the last four centuries, the priest at the temple prepares a batch of prasad (holy food) - cooked rice, that is fed to the jackals after the evening prayers.
10 kms further up the main road is India Bridge. A very sensitive location as it is close to the Pakistan Border and is the only way the army can cross the wild desert. Photography is strictly prohibited. Those wanting to go beyond the bridge need to take a pass from BSF. We stood at the edge of the bridge, took in the view and turned back to our resort for a well-deserved lunch and nap.
That evening, we took a camel cart ride all the way up to the viewing towers. As the sun set to our left, the moon rose from the right. Only pictures can describe hereinafter.
We walked around for over 3 hours. And because all good things must come to an end, we had to return to our camp.
The next morning, we left for Bhuj. Enroute we stopped at Ludiya village and spent some time interacting with the local artisans.
The whole village was one big work of art.
Rann of Kutch Image Gallery Photo viewer
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