While the incredible architecture, incomparable culinary delights, historical monuments, remnants of ancient civilisations and lavish golf courses boast the true essence of the state of Gujarat, liveliness and the surreal landscapes are synonymous with the magnificent beauty of its unique marvel called ‘Kutch’. Remarkably beautiful, Kutch, with its vast spreads of the white salt desert, comes to life during the winters when the Rann Festival is held. The enchanting scenic beauty and the vibrancy here cast a spell that is hard to break and there are plenty of believable reasons why Kutch is considered as the true ‘heaven descending on earth’. Here, we list the top reasons why Kutch should be your next choice for offbeat travelling…
RANN UTSAV: Cornucopia of Joy, Culture and Celebration
Kutch being a hub of vibrant and traditional fairs and festivals enjoys a brimming life where people from different tribal communities like Rabari, Ahir, Marwada and others assemble and celebrate with extreme joy. One such carnival that is known for the abundance of colourful celebrations is Rann Utsav. Taking place every year between November to February, this colourful carnival, organised with the support of Gujarat Tourism, swanks the true culture of Gujarat and also features a plethora of activities including the huge camp settlements with cultural programs, camel safari, musical moments, handicrafts display and adventure activities like hot-air ballooning. One also gets the opportunity to visit the villages in Rann and understand how locals spend their lives here and stay in one of the traditional huts or Bhungas in the Rann. But what enhances the true beauty is the endless shimmering view of the landscape. Especially, during a full moon night, the natural white light flashing on the desert sand gives a sheer glimpse of a paradise found on earth. Call it a photographer’s delight, a must-see tourist attraction, a carnival capturing lifetime moments or a brimming profusion of natural beauty, culture and tradition, Kutch, never fails to impress!
MANDVI: Surrender to Serenity
Once a famous port and now a famous tourist attraction in Kutch, Mandvi, famous for its beach and a centuries-old shipbuilding yard, is an ideal place where one gets to see the perfect amalgamation of sand, sun and sea. While the welcoming waters, white sandy shores and bustle of snack stalls make the beaches of Mandvi a must-visit, watching the sunset from here and walking barefoot on the golden sand, is a simple pleasure that one should not miss. Not just a serene place, Mandvi Beach is also known for its various avenues of adventure activities some of which include water sports like surfing, skiing, speed boating, water scooting, parasailing as well as camping adventures or simply relaxing ease with family or friends. Bollywood buffs and architecture lovers are sure to be enthralled by a visit to the nearby Vijay Vilas Palace that was built in 1929 by Rao Vijayrajji. You may also choose to head out to the nearby local markets that are known to sell rich handicrafts. End your day with a leisurely walk around the areas of the palace that are open to the public and marvel at the magnificently opulent architectural style.
NARAYAN SAROVAR: Evoking the Sense of Spiritually
One of the holiest lakes in Hinduism, Narayan Sarovar, is sacred to Lord Narayan, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Located 100 km away from Bhuj and near the Lakhpat Taluka in Kutch, the lake is an agglomeration of five lakes (collectively called Panch-Sarovar; Mansarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, Pampa Sarovar and Pushkar Sarovar) and is considered a sacred pilgrimage destination for the orthodox Hindus. The origin of Narayan Sarovar dates back to the Puranas. According to Hindu mythology, it is said that there was a drought in the region and Lord Vishnu appeared in response to ardent prayers by sages. When he touched the land with his toe, a lake was immediately created, alleviating the locals from their misery and that’s the key reason why the lake has a great spiritual significance. A large number of temples like Shri Trikamraiji, Govardhannathji, Dwarkanath, Laxminarayan, Adinarayan, Ranchodraiji and Laxmiji surround the lake. Narayan Sarovar has a Wildlife Sanctuary, the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary. You can find some quiet time to witness the rare Chinkaras, Red Antelopes here.
DHOLAVIRA: Reminiscing the Bygone Era
Dholavira is the larger of the two most remarkable excavations of the Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan culture, dating back to 4500 years ago. Known locally as Kotada (which means large fort), Dholavira sprawls over 100 hectares of semi-arid land at the north-west corner of the island of Khadir, one of the islands in the Great Rann of Kutch that remain above the flood-plains in months when the rest of the desert is submerged by the monsoon. Placed on an island encompassed by the Greater Rann of Kutch, the remaining parts of Dholavira are a sample of the wonders of hydro-designing aced by the antiquated. Interestingly, the city was, perhaps, configured like a large parallelogram boldly outlined by massive walls with their longer axis being from the east to west. A journey to this stunning trip to the past is worth every minute of your trip as it sails you through the saline desert plains of the Great Rann, where you can also spot wildlife such as Chinkara (Indian gazelle), Nilgai and Flamingos. Around 250 km from Bhuj, Dholavira is reached via Bhachau and Rapar and the nearest airport is Bhuj.
MATA NO MADH: Rooted into Devotion
Dedicated to Maa Ashapura and located 138 kilometres from the city of Bhuj, Mata no Madh is a temple and one of the most sacred shrines of Gujarat. Ashapura Ma is believed to be the chief deity of Jadeja, the rulers of Kutch state and now well known as Mata No Madh. The original 1200-year-old temple was demolished twice due to earthquakes. This structure has now been constructed with more grandeur and better dimensions. The main temple stands out in the skyline of Bhuj and creates a breath-taking view for visitors. The temple that stands strong today has been built by Sunderji Saudagar. With great faith in goddess Ashapura, thousands of devotees and tourist visit Mata no Madh round the year. Several important religious activities are carried out at Mata No Madh and several Hindu festivals like Diwali and Navratri are celebrated with great fervour.
LITTLE RANN OF KUTCH: A Rendezvous with Nature
The Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), a salt marsh in Gujarat, is a pristine, vast plain that stretches into the horizon. Sprawled over 3,570 sq. km, LRK is a unique landscape with characteristics of both wetlands as well as desert. This biodiversity of the landscape is due to seasonal rivers flowing through the area which goes on to meet the sea from the Gulf of Kutch. . Though a seemingly stark landscape, it is rich in biodiversity and is an ecologically important area for wildlife and many local and migratory waterbirds. It is known to be the world’s last refuge of the Indian Wild Asses and acts as a major nesting ground for the gorgeous Lesser Flamingos–the only place outside Africa to serve as a conducive environment for the breeding of these magnificent birds. Additionally, LRK is famous as the last habitat for Asiatic wild ass apart from which, spotting of the desert and Indian fox, Jackal, Striped Hyena, Desert Cat and Indian Wolf is an added attraction in this area.
HANDICRAFTS OF KUTCH: Weaving the Authenticity
Carried on from generation to generation, the Kutch region is renowned for its handicrafts, produced by the very talented artisans in its villages who have played a crucial role in sustaining the traditional arts due to the authentic, local production. Many of the famous arts, such as bandhani tie-die and ajrakh block printing, originate from Pakistan. Migrants brought these arts with them when they came to Kutch more than 350 years ago. Also, ethnic style arts such as embroidery, weaving, pottery, lacquer work, leatherwork, mud and mirror work and Rogan art, patchwork, terracotta, wood carvings, pen knives and nutcrackers are prevalent in the region. It is also possible to drop into the villages and visit the artisans individually. Many villages have their styles and specialties; the best solution is to explore the area at your own pace and see what you find! Buying directly from the artisans here is a great way of endorsing the aspects of both rural tourism and travel benefiting the locals.