Kutch is a beautiful blend of colourful textiles, distinct artisans & their villages, gorgeous palaces & forts, vast countryside swathes, the great white Rann/salt desert, and of course Amitabh Bachchan ji’s endorsements. Kutch is all that and more.
It took me three visits to understand why they say ‘’Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha’’. It has a very rich culture and its people have a very different lifestyle from the rest of the country. They worship art and strongly believe in passing it on to the next generations, they do not depend on the municipality to clean up the roads- they do it themselves, they build strong unity and are deemed to grow together as a community.
They have seen it all- the ebbs and flows- they re-built the entire city after a devastating earthquake. Kutch has its heart in its humble, self-respecting, warm people opening their arms to the world to come and experience their land.
Kutch is the largest district in India. The majority part of the district is the Rann of Kutch which covers an area of 10,000 square miles on a border of India. Kutch means ‘something that intermittently becomes dry and wet’. During the monsoon, the Rann of Kutch is submerged in water while during the other seasons, it becomes dry and shines with white salt marshes.
This time during my visit to Kutch, I had no preconceived plans for exploring Kutch, except for stargazing. We arrived at the Bhuj house – a traditional Parsi courtyard homestay run by Katie and Jehan Bhujwala in the heart of Bhuj. It’s a 150-year-old ancestral home that is still standing after the devastating earthquake in 2001. Our host Shriraj, a good friend of the Bhujwala’s and an avid traveler himself asked what my plans were. ”You tell me what my plans should be,” I said. Every day he’d suggest places which I didn’t know of and regaled us with stories about places and people, stories that were passed on to him by his grandfather.
Curated some of the unique experiences and best things to do in and around Bhuj and Rann of Kutch in this post.
Artists, Artisan villages and Markets:
Some of the Artist villages you should visit Bhujodi village (specialised in spinning, intricate weaving of shawls, stoles, carpets and more), Ajrakpur (specialised in block printing) Gadhinugahm and Banni (specialised in building mud huts, making quilts and patchwork bedsheets), Sumrasar and Dhordo (specialised in embroidery)
Living and learning design center (LLDC) is a studio and gallery that showcases the art of locals, including pottery, metal bells, textiles and more.
On one of the evenings visit the bustling Shroff Bazaar near Darbargadh’s palace complex, a place where you can see merchants selling Kutchi textiles, antiques, vintage furniture and what not! Our hosts from Bhuj house recommend going to Saifee’s – Bhuj’s institutionalised ice-cream parlour and Farsan Dunia – a lovely bakehouse that sells traditional sweets, savoury and original Khavda.
Antique furniture: Bhuj, in general, has a lot of street-side merchants who sell old doors and windows. Most of them are collected during the 2001 earthquake. When I told Shiraj how fascinated i was about the old furniture he suggested me to visit Ramnikbhai of neighbouring Mirzapur. It was a great experience visiting his workshop. He has this huge collection of old doors and windows. He also restores old furniture and facilitates transporting them to any city in India.
Chadva Rakhal is a private forest and is about 30 min drive from Bhuj town. The forest belongs to Maharao(the last king of the Kutch kingdom) The wildlife here is limited to a few leopards, Neelgai’s, several birds which are both residents and seasonal guests, crocodiles that often take a sunbath in Prag sar lake and a couple of horses here and there. That day i spotted a few Neel gai’s amidst the sparsely spread bavad trees.
Read full post: Chadva Rakhal – Hidden gem of Gujarat
Head to the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary to spot flamingos, spoonbills and variety of other birds in the largest saline wetlands
Mandvi Beach town:
Mandvi is one of the most underrated beach towns in India. As you cross the Rukmavati river and enter the Mandvi town, it looks as if time has just stopped in the particular region. The 400-year-old traditional handmade ship-building industry welcomes you to the town. I couldn’t stop admiring the huge wooden ships in construction, strung in the water.
The beautiful Vijay Vilas palace and the beach cafe near the palace are worth visiting. The warm and windy beaches are so inviting that you might end up losing track of time (like me!)
The Great Rann itself:
The Great Rann of Kutch divides India from our neighbour Pakistan. During the winters, the land gets dried up and shimmering salt marshes are formed. It is one of the largest salt deserts in the world. It’s a magnificent experience to see the endless vast salt marshes. Dhordo is the most popular place to see the White desert and that is where Rann Utsav is celebrated. Kala dungar /magnetic hills give panoramic views of the White desert.
But if you want to experience it without too many tourists drive to Dolavira. It is about 4 hours drive from Bhuj. Dolavira is also home for the Ancient ruins of the Indus valley civilisation.
Bhuj House has more information and some stunning pictures of Dolavira, Mandvi, and Lakpat (the abandoned port city of riches) Here
I often get melodramatic about the starless city skies and rant all the time about how we city folks are missing out on one of the free (priceless) things still left in the world – A sky with a million stars with a power to make us forget all the chaos and worries of the day. Kutch has the clearest skies in India and hence one of the best places for stargazing.
Just sleep outside or on the terrace to admire the milky way. The top of Rudra mata dam is also a great place to stargaze. Nishanth Gor from the Kutch astronomy club also organises stargazing events. Here is his contact: 9879554770.
If you are keen to do stargazing, then plan to go during one of meteor showers. The Leonid meteor shower will be during 3rd week of November and Geminid during 2nd of December (google dates online)
Try to go on no moon day or new moon days for a better visibility of the milky way.
Planning to visit Kutch in the near Future? Let me know which of the above experiences excited you the most 🙂
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