These are my independent thoughts and description. Have interviewed a lot of localites and then after thinking a lot, penned down my thoughts. Readers might find my blog lengthy, but when I started writing, I never knew there was so much to share about this beautiful White Desert. I just couldn’t stop typing and this is the result of my hardwork in trying to explain in my words this awesome place. Kutch is famous for a few things: first and foremost it is known for its rich traditions in handicrafts and the craft market that takes place every winter. It’s also famous for the Great Rann of Kutch: a huge salt marsh located in the Thar desert – stretching from Kutch into the Sindh region of southern Pakistan. All I heard now was the sound of the wind, coupled with waves of the Arabian Sea, and a crackle under my feet – rubbing against salt, hard crystalline salt. This salt stretched for miles and endless miles all around. I took a few steps away from the crowds and started walking – towards “nothing”, I soon realised, there were no mountains or lakes, not even flickering lights dotting the horizon. Just a blanket of white merging into another blanket of white. Not a single soul to be seen, and I just kept on walking into nothingness.
The mind games had begun on the very first morning of our visit to the White Rann of Kutch. What will I see there? Is it truly worth my while to come so far? And so many questions / queries. I truly didn’t have any answer, but universe answered all my queries. My quest ended here. I realised that once I stepped out of my comfort zone, I started growing, changing and transforming. Found my inner strengths, which I was unaware of, till now.
The White Rann of Kutch isn’t a place you can just walk up to. You need to acquire permission from the BSF. The timings of the visit to the White Rann is also decided by the BSF. Sunrise and sunset is the only time civilians get to enter the White Rann of Kutch. On a couple of nights before and after during the full moon, civilians can go to see the moonrise after due permissions are sought from the BSF.
Enroute to the Rann of Kutch, you will see tons of hills of salt. Agariya tribe have been the main salt farmers. The seasonal salt marsh is located just 10 kms from the Arabian Sea and this area is under water during the monsoon months. Salt farming starts in October and within 7 months Agariya Tribe work and stay in make shift tents to ensure that we get clean, delicious salt in our food. It was such a pity to see them working in these adverse conditions. No footwear, no masks on their face and it’s the most difficult task, as the salt is truly harmful for our skin. These Agariya farmers have skin lesions. I would urge each and every person whosoever is reading this blog, please be grateful to the salt farmers, who toil hard for us. A silent prayer of gratitude for them, before you read further. They really need our prayers and wishes.
Before we went to Rann of Kutch, we thought of exploring some of the important and ancient monuments of Gujarat. Gujarat is rich in heritage and culture and lots of history is associated with it. I truly wish I had more time with me, that I could see all of Gujarat, but its rather difficult.
Rani ki Vav: Rani Udayamati commissioned this vav or stepwell, in 1063 in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. The Vav was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati river and silted over until the late 1980s, when it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India, with the carvings found in pristine condition. Rani Ki Vav is amongst the finest stepwells in India, and one of the most famous legacies of the ancient capital city.
The vavs of Gujarat are not merely sites for collecting water and socialising, but also simultaneously hold great spiritual significance. They were originally constructed quite simply, but became more intricate over the years, perhaps to make explicit this ancient concept of the sanctity of water by carving it out in stone deities. You may thus enter Rani Ki Vav as if it is a subterranean temple.
The steps begin at ground level, leading you down through the cool air through several pillared pavilions to reach the deep well below. There are more than 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. The central theme is the Dasavataras, or ten incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, brahmins, and apsaras (celestial dancers), painting their lips and adorning themselves. At water level you come to a carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, in which Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent Shesha, where it is said he rests in the infinity between ages. Now you can also see Rani ki Vav on the new Rs. 100 currency.
Mandvi Beach :The Maharao's private beach, behind Vijay Vilas Palace, is 8 km from town, and requires a small fee (the other beaches are free and open to the public). More secluded than the others, the Vijay Vilas Beach has nice white sand, lovely places to swim and accommodation available in air-conditioned tents along the shore. The balcony at the top affords a superb view of the surrounding area. The tiny intricate windows gives one feeling to be out in open, through which cool sea wind passes out. Vijay Vilas Palace has now become famous because of Bollywood. Memorable movies with great foot tapping numbers like Hum Dil De Chuke Saanam, Laagan just to name a few, have been shot here. We also went to Vijay Vilas Palace and had an amazing experience. How I wish I could have a cup of tea sitting in their palace. The Palace has some very old antique pieces of furniture and cutlery. Even the Lion and Tiger killed by the then Rajas are showcased.
Kalo Dungar or Black Hill: Kalo Dungar is the highest point in Kutch, Gujarat, India, at 462 m (1,516 ft). It is located 97 km from District headquarters of Bhuj This is the only place in Kutch from where a panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch is possible. Since it is located very near to the Pakistan border, there is an Army post at the top; beyond here, only military personnel are allowed. The Kalo Dungar is also famous for a 400-year-old Dattatreya temple. Kalo Dungar magnetic hill is a popular optical illusion where vehicle seems to defy the gravity and roll up the slope.
Shree Somnath: Shree Somnath is first among the twelve Aadi Jyotirlings of India. Shiva said, `I am always present everywhere but specially in 12 forms and places as the Jyotirlingas`. Somnath is one of these 12 holy places. This is the first among the twelve holy Shiva Jyotirlings. The temple was rebuit atleast 8 times, as the invaders always targeted Shree Somnath. Vallabhghat is a beautiful sunset point. The temple is illuminated every evening. Sound & Light Show “Jay Somnath” is also displayed every night from 2000 – 2100 hrs, which allows the pilgrims an ethereal experience in the backdrop of grand Somnath temple and the holy wave sounds of the Arabian Ocean. Mobiles, Cameras, Big Purses, Electronic Items are not allowed in the temple. You have to put them in the digital lockers and please don’t loose the receipt, as the locker opens only with a bar code, which is mentioned on the receipt.
Last Bridge of India: We visited the “Last Bridge of India”. Stopping or taking photographs is a complete NO. Army personnel are guarding this post for us so that you and me can sleep in peace and safely tucked in our warm blankets. They are braving the cold waves, extreme climatic conditions and the heat waves for us. So a big salute to them. After the Army post, if we want to go that side, then we need special permissions etc., The view is truly awesome and our eyes became watery on hearing stories from the Army Personnel.
Gir National Park: As I have already shared, Gujarat is full of history and culture, so how can animals be left behind. Gir National Park which houses approximately 523 Asiatic Lions and is spread over a total area of 1,412 kms. Now that’s huge and we were blessed to see some of the big cats, leopards playing happily, apart from ofcourse the rest of the animals. Saw a peacock dancing, and jackals eating their fresh catch. They were roaming freely and we were under cage – yes, literally we were in a caged jeep and whatever happened, we can’t get out of the jeep. Gir is closed from June to October and the best time to visit this place is from December to March. You have to book the safari well in advance. You can do online booking as well.
Patan: Patan was the medieval capital of Gujarat. The famous patola sari is one of the finest hand-woven sarees produced today. Today I feel happy and elated to boast that I do own a Patola sari, which was gifted to me by my Grandmother. This is a specialty of Patan. It is famous for extremely delicate patterns woven with great precision and clarity. A patola sari takes 4 to 6 months to make, depending on how complicated the designs is and if the length is 5 or 6 metres. This saris are totally colored with vegetable colors. Costs start from Rs. 20,000 which may go up to Rs. 20,00,000 even depending on the difficulty of work as many times gold threads are included during its weaving process. It is said that this technique is taught to no one in the family, but only to the sons. It can take six months to one year to make one sari due to the long process of dying each strand separately before weaving them together.
Useful tips to visit the White Rann of Kutch
- Dhordo camp is the closest camp to the White Rann of Kutch.
- The locals of the villages around the White Rann of Kutch also run homestays. To get a more local experience (please be open-minded about the lack of comforts), you can also choose to stay in these villages with the locals.
- Full moon nights are the most popular time to visit the White Rann of Kutch. In case you don’t get bookings for that night, plan a visit a day or two before or after. You’ll enjoy the same experience.
- Dholavira, the biggest excation site of the Indus Valley Civilisation, in India can be visited as a day trip from the White Rann of Kutch. Alas!! I went twice and couldn’t go there due to paucity of time.
- Carry your light woollens, as it gets cold in the night.
- It’s a complete road trip, unless you plan to take the flight till Bhuj, but usually that’s expensive. Rail connectivity isn’t that great and trains also take the same amount of time. So I would advice take the road route.
- Washrooms are the biggest pain in our country especially for ladies. You will hardly find good, hygienic ladies room, so please carry Pee Safe Products. You won’t find Sulabh Services also.
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