Gujarat is one of the beautiful jewels of India and the cream on the milk while visiting Gujarat is to explore Kutch. It is one of the largest salt deserts in the world.
Kachchh, located in the State of Gujarat, 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, cornucopia of joy and beauty, all together reflect the magnificence of the kaleidoscopic Kachchh. Particularly, the spectacular sight of the boundless white desert under the moonlight presents the stunning creation of nature, unique to this world.
History of Kutch
The area was once a sprawling shallow of the Arabian Sea until a constant geological shift closed off the connection with the sea. Over the years, the region eventually became a seasonal marshy salt desert. During monsoons, the marsh fills up with water and the wetland extends from the Gulf of Kutch on the west through to the Gulf of Cambay on the east. In the summers, the water dries to create a crunchy based bed of white salty land.
Why to visit Kutch?
A plethora of varied hues, profusion of design, superfluity of culture, cornucopia of music and dance, all together in the arid lands of Kutch creates a mosaic of exquisiteness which reflects the identity and spirit of the region. Kutch, one of the most ecologically and ethnically diverse district of the state is a celebratory land of art, crafts, music, dance, people and nature.
What to explore?
Rann of Kutch
Rann of Kutch is a massive expanse of cracked earth, inland from the sea that promises to take your breath away. The nothingness for miles is both nerve-wracking and stunning with small oasis of water bodies and shrub forests doubling up as homes for pink flamingoes and wild asses. Tribal hamlets with cylindrical mud bhungas (huts) are the epicenter for Kutchi embroidery, tie and dye, leatherwork, pottery, bell metal craft and the famous Rogan painting by the only surviving expert family. Approximately 200 km east of the Rann, is the Little Rann of Kutch, which houses the 4953-sq-km Wild Ass Sanctuary. It homes the only remaining population of the chestnut-coloured Indian wild ass (khur), as well as blue-bulls, blackbuck and chinkara.
Kalo Dungar (The Black Hill)
North of the village of Khavda, Kalo Dungar (Black Hill) marks Kutch’s highest point (462 m), with remarkable views over the Great Rann salt flat (or inland sea if you’re visiting during the monsoon). You’ll need your own transport to visit. The hill is also famous for a 400-year old temple dedicated to Lord Dattatreya. You walk to the edge of the hill and look over at the sprawling blanched landscape that changes hues as the day progresses and the sun sinks behind the mountains. A 15-min drive from the base of the hill lands you on the India bridge that connects the far north of Kutch to the mainland. The area comes under the jurisdiction of the army and photography is not allowed. The Indo-Pak border lies about 40 km north from here.
Koteshwar Mahadev Temple
After traveling over the expanse of desert in western Kutch, you find the Koteshwar Temple, at a place where the immensity of dry land meets the incomprehensible vastness of the sea. After so much arid ground, the sight of the ocean will awaken your spirits; though the sea is even less hospitable to humans, a sobering thought. The only point that breaks the skyline from the flat brown horizon to the east and the wide blue horizon to the west is the point of the Koteshwar Temple, the last outpost of human construction at the westernmost limit of India. Not overrun by tourists like the temple at Dwarka, Koteshwar is conducive to contemplating emptiness, pondering the place of humanity on earth (and ultimately, isn’t that what spiritual traditions are about?).
Visitors can see the temple, walk along the beach and on a clear night, even see the glow of light from Karachi, Pakistan, on the northwestern horizon.
A sprawling lake on the western most edge of India, Narayan Sarovar has great spiritual significance. This is one of the 5 holy lakes of Hinduism, along with Mansarovar in Tibet, Pampa in Karnataka, Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa and Pushkar in Rajasthan, and is considered a coveted place for a holy dip. An adjoining temple built by the wife of Maharao Desalji features shrines of Shri Trikamraiji, Laxminarayan, Govardhannathji, Dwarkanath, Adinarayan, Ranchodraiji and Laxmiji. A short drive from here, the Koteshwar Mahadev Temple is a grand sandstone structure that overlooks a marshy sea. Shrines dedicated to Shiva and Ganesha are the highlights here.
Only 33 km north of Narayan Sarovar lies the town of Lakhpat, with a walled fort as its main highlight. The town was an important coastal trade node in the 18th century. At the mouth of the Kori creek, the large fort walls still offer testimony to a short but glorious past. One can climb the fort rampart, the only remaining structure of the fort, and look over at the placid sea. This spot is particularly stunning at sunset. Within the fort walls, also lies a 16th century gurdwara. It is believed that Guru Nanak stopped here twice during his second (1506–1513) and fourth (1519–1521) missionary journey called Udasis. The gurdwara is a soothing spot for travellers. The soft hymns play constantly in the background, as travellers visit the ancient Sikh place of worship to see relics like wooden footwear, palkhi (palanquin), manuscripts and markings of two important heads of the Udasi sect.
Chhari Dhand Wetland Reserve
The shallow wetlands of Banni Grasslands in the heart of Kutch are a dream for birding enthusiasts. This Chhari Dhand reserve is situated near Fulay Village in Nakhtranan Taluka of Kutch. Chhari means ‘salty’ and Dhand means ‘shallow wetlands’ in the local language. More than 370 species, including raptors, waders and larks are found in the region and the population goes up during the winters when migratory birds make this a veritable stop. Make Dhordo and Hodka villages of Kutch your base to visit here early morning.
This Bhuj based beautiful palace, built in 1752, lost its top storey in an earthquake, but the lower floor is open for travellers, with a fantastic 15.2m scroll showing a Kutch state procession. The palace is one of the three that lie in the walled complex of the old part of town. The 18th-century elaborately mirrored interior is a demonstration of the fascination with all things European – an inverted mirror of European Orientalism – with blue-and-white Delphi-style tiling, a candelabra with Venetian-glass shades, and the Harding lithograph series The Rake’s Progress. There are lofty views of Rani Mahal from atop the tower. The palace was built for Maharao Lakhpatji by Ram Singh Malam, a sailor from Dwarka who had learnt European arts and crafts on his travels. In the bedroom is a bed with solid gold legs (the king apparently auctioned his bed annually). In the Fuvara Mahal room, fountains played around the ruler while he sat watching dancers or composing poems.
An excellent place to cool off on a hot afternoon, Hamirsar Lake is where people go to swim, or sit under a tree and enjoy the water, as well as where many women do their laundry. Walking along the lake's edge is a great way to get from one place to another, with the Aina Mahal and Praga Mahal, the Kutch Museum, the Ramkund Stepwell and Ram Dhun Temple, the Swaminarayan Temple and the Alfred High School all located very close to the eastern side of the lake; a walk from the Aina Mahal to the Swaminarayan Temple (passing all the other sites mentioned) takes about half an hour. Further around the other side of the lake is the Sharad Baug palace, and the road to the royal chhatardis.
At the height of our civilization, our technological development, our social and material complexity, all signs point to progress, we often think. And yet, all is not as it seems and once in a while it occurs to us to look into the past to discover our future.
Dholavira is the larger of the two most remarkable excavations of the Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan culture, dating back to 4500 years ago. While the other site, Lothal, is more exhaustively educated and easier to reach, a visit to Lothal only complements, rather than replaces, a visit to Dholavira. What this site offers you, in the intense environment that comes with being surrounded by the Great Rann of Kutch, is a unique insight into the pioneering Harappan mind, with one of the world’s earliest and best planned water conservation systems and what might be the world’s first signboards, written in ancient Indus script.
The excavation also tells the story of the 7 stages of the civilization, from development to maturity to decay, the last of which hints at a strange piece of history, with more questions than answers. After the peak of the civilization, Dholavira was temporarily abandoned, after which it seems that the settlers returned with a markedly de-urbanized culture. There are hints that they willingly chose to simplify their lives, rather than try to ride the collapse of their once glorified civilization. Here, on the ruins, you will have a chance to contemplate what progress and civilization mean and what, if anything, is truly permanent.
Sharad Bagh Palace
Sharad Bagh Palace lies as a green oasis in the middle of sun scorched Bhuj. It lost most of its 3rd floor in the 2001 earthquake, and the remaining lower floors are closed. However, the adjacent former dining hall now houses the palace’s eclectic museum collection. Standout exhibits are two huge stuffed tigers that the erstwhile Maharao shot, and his coffin. The gardens, now turned nursery, are an oasis in the middle of the town. These are excellent to walk around on a hot day to cool off between sightseeing.
About a 20-minute walk southwest of Hamirsar lake, through open areas that no longer seem like you're in the city, are the royal cenotaphs (memorials to those not actually buried there and, in this case, not buried at all but cremated). Many of the monuments are in ruins due to earthquakes, but those of Lakhpatji, Raydhanji II and Desarji are still quite intact. The site is very quiet, out in the middle of a field, not surrounded by buildings, and is very peaceful in morning or evening, though in the middle of the day it can be quite hot under bright sun.
Kutch is justly famous for its rugged desert landscape, but there is more to this land. The prehistoric rock formations along the Lyari riverbed are breathtaking in their beauty and grandeur. This awe-inspiring sight dwells approx. 70 km from Bhuj, behind Dhinodhar hills.
Seema Darshan - Nada Bet
Travel to Nada Bet, a small slice of land jutting into a sprawling lake, where the Seema Darshan is held. It is an opportunity for travellers to see the workings of an army post on the border of India. Some of the activities and sights that will interest the traveller include the retreat ceremony against the backdrop of a glorious orange sunset where the Border Security Force (BSF) jawans put up a gallant show of marching with pride to end another day of guarding the borders. Since only 600 people are allowed in a day, book ahead to secure a visit. A documentary film is showcased at the Nada Bet border for people to get a deeper insight about life on borders. A weapon display and photo gallery at nada bet includes guns, tanks and other sophisticated devices that help in keeping the border and inland places secure. As an ode to the camels and to showcase their expertise and disciple, a camel show is presented for the visitors.
Mandvi Beach lies close to Mandvi Kachchh and is a wonderful attraction and tourist location. This golden sandy beach of Kachchh is worth a visit and is not a frequently visited tourist beach. So you can truly enjoy moments of bliss with your family and friends.
Fair & Festivals
KACHCHH is the place of life where everyone enjoys life with vibrant Fairs and Festivals. Among them, some are very unique and traditional fairs. Where different tribes of kachchh like, Rabari, Ahir, Marwada, Meghwal, Sodha, Jat, Koli and all other communities come and celebrate with extreme joy. Especially after monsoon is the season of fairs and festivals. Especially Fairs in East Kachchh like Ravechi Mela, Wondh Mela, Sangwari Mela, in August or September. And it’s worth to visit for all but heaven for Photographers. And fairs in West Kachchh are Mota Yaksh Mela, Hajipir Mela, Matiya Dev Mela, Mai Mela. In North Kachchh- Dhrang Mela, Dattatrey ( kaladungar ) Mela, Sadhara Mela, Dhinodhar dada, fulpir Mela are worth to explore. And in South Kachchh Shitla Mata, Rukanpir Mela, are good. And there are several other fairs too.
Kachchh – Gujarat is also famous for vibrant festivals, that’s why people says it’s the land of Love and Joy where everyone enjoys life and everyone dance during 9 nights long festival Navratri. Every village, street, homes decorated during Diwali and Ied. And no one can save himself from colour during the Holi – festival of Colour. And entire sky looks colourful on the kites day – uttrayan festival. Janmashtami is the festival with sweets and fairs for whole month!
It’s a Rann Utsav, the Carnival of Music, Dance, Culture of Gujarat. Enhance the nature beauty of White Rann when the light of the Full Moon spread it on the white land. The Festival starts every year in November onwards at Kachchh, Gujarat; marks this celebration till Holi. Lots of Tourists visit from different parts of the world just to feel the view of shimmering landscape at Rann Utsav. Especially a full moon night gives the enchanting moment when the moonlight flashes on desert sand. The white milky color gives the glimpse of Heaven on earth. Cool Breeze; flashlight of full moon welcomes the tourist to live the lifetime memorable experience.
Every year it organizes with the support of Gujarat Tourism. This includes many activities like the Traditional Cultural Dance, Cultural Act shows, Camel Safari, Musical Moments, Live in Tents; many more activities at Rann Utsav. Rann Utsav is an awesome festival of Kachchh, Gujarat, India. It is a Carnival of Music, Dance, nature beauty of White Rann and much more than that when visit under the full Moon. Kachchh Rann Utsav is the shimmering landscape that gives the enchanting moments of this Fest, which feels like Heaven On Earth during Festival Time. In fact, it’s a Family holiday destination to explore fun moments and store in cameras for a lifetime.
Special treat for your taste bud in Kutch
The majority of the population is vegetarian. Jains, brahmins and some other caste practice strict vegetarianism. Jains also refrain from eating kandmool food grown below the ground such as potatoes, garlic, onion, and yam
In the villages, staple foods include kadi-khichdi, bajra and milk; bajara na rotla with curd and buttermilk is very common food for all the Gujarati people. Bajra was introduced by a king of this region named Lakho Fulani. During his period of exile, he came to know about this grain in some tribal regions. They also extensively drink buttermilk during lunch. Milk is considered to be sacred food and offering it to somebody is considered a gesture of friendship and welcoming. Settlement of dispute invariably follows offering milk to each other as a concluding remark. In the Kachchhi engagement ceremony, the bride’s family offers milk to the groom’s relatives as a symbol of accepting their relationship.
Dabeli means “pressed” in Gujarati language. It is said to be invented by one Keshavji Gabha Chudasama alias Kesha Malam, resident of Mandvi, Kachchh in the 1960s. When he started business he sold a dabeli at one anna or six paisa.
Dabeli thus has its origin in Mandvi, a city of the Kachchh region and even today dabeli masala made in the city are said to be most authentic. The dabeli is also, therefore, known as Kachchhi dabeli or Kachchhi dabeli taking its cue from the region of its origin. Bhuj and Nakhatrana towns of Kachchh are also known for authentic dabeli apart from Mandvi.
Tea is the most popular drink in this region and is enjoyed irrespective of sex, caste, religion or social status. Tea stalls where groups of people chat over tea are invariable sights of every village or town entrance from early morning to late evening.
The usually Kachchhi Cusine consists of Roti or Rotlas, Curd, Buttermilk, Dal, Curry, Vegetables, Papad, Kachumbar. Dry rotlis or Theplas and Khakras and Sev (of Gram Flour) are made and stored as food during travelling etc.
The people of Kachchh believe in simple living and high thinking. The staple food is Rotlas made of Bajri (millet) which the local relish with Buttermilk or ‘Chhas’, Butter and Jaggery or ‘Gud’
Bajra was introduced by a king of this region named Lakho Fulani.
‘Khichhdi’ made of rice and dal (pulses), Kadhi or Curry made with buttermilk and besan floor is liked by everyone.
Odho is a Kachchhi delicacy. It is similar in preparation to the ever popular ‘Baingan Bharta’. A typical Kachchhi meal consists of Bajre ja rotla, Odho, kadhi, garlic chutney & ‘goad’ aka jaggery. The meal is almost always followed by a chilled glass of ‘chhaas’, a very thin buttermilk which helps cool down the body during the extremely dry hot seasons.
This is Kachchh salty namkeen.
This is one of the India’s most famous sweets, People in North India calls it Mesuk-Paak, in South India they calls it Mesur-paak, we call it Mesukh. Mesukh is a Mogul item, which is invented before 300-400 years ago when Pakistan & Afghanistan were lands of India. Mesukh is the softest & most fast melting in India. You just put it in your mouth & you don’t even have to chew it, it will melt itself in seconds. It is Made from Beshan, loads of Ghee, Pistachio, and Sugar.
Gulab-pak was invented in Kachchh. It is a sweet of pure rose petals. Almond, Cashew, pistachio Milk & Sugar.
Adadiya is a famous sweet of Kachchh which is available only in winter. People enjoy this sweet around the world. It has health benefits also. This is made in pure ghee.
Famous of Kutch to buy
The rich and diverse creative traditions of Kachchh live at the intersection of cultures and communities. Once a destination by land and sea for people from Africa, the Middle East, and the Swat Valley, Kachchh has a rich tradition of sea trade from Mandvi and a global connection. A river system was shared between Kachchh, Sindh and Rajasthan. As a border state, Kachchh is constantly absorbing cultures from the north, west, and east. Kachchhi motifs can be traced to the ancient Harappan civilization, yet craft is developing and growing with the innovative and entrepreneurial drive of spirited artists.
The arid climate has pushed communities here to evolve an ingenious balance of meeting their needs by converting resources into products for daily living. While embroidery has become a craft synonymous with Kachchh, other textile crafts and hard materials crafts give this land color and identity. Craft is inextricable from the numerous communities, connected by trade, agriculture and pastoralism in Kachchh.
Handicrafts are an important part of Kutchi tradition and include embroidery, leatherwork, pottery, woodwork, Weaving, Knife work, metal ball works, namda art, Rogan (painting on cloth), silverwork, mud-mirror work, seashell product, white metal and copper bell making.
Kachchh is world-renowned for its mirrored embroideries. Most of these were traditionally stitched by village women, for themselves. One can witness various types of embroideries such as Suf, Khareek, Pakko, Rabaris, Jat, Mutavas, Patchwork and appliqué, Needlework, Ajrakh, Batik prints, Bela prints and Bandhani.
How to get there
By Road: Ahmedabad is 335 kilometers from Bhuj approx. driving time is 7 hours. Rann of Kutch is about 85 kilometers from Bhuj.
By Train: Bhuj is the closest air and rail node to Rann of Kutch, at 85 kilometers.
By Air: The Rudra Mata airport at Bhuj is a small but busy node.
Best time to Visit
Winter time from November to February
Interesting facts to know
· The history of Kutch (Kachchh) goes back thousands of years.
· Kutch is one of the largest salt deserts in the world.
· Over the centuries many cultures settled in Kutch (Kachchh) from places such as Sindh (now Pakistan), Persia (now Iran), Marwar (Rajasthan) and Gujarat.
· Kutch State was a state within India from 1947 to 1956. Its capital was Bhuj. Kutch State was a state within India from 1947 to 1956. Its capital was Bhuj.
· It is the 2nd largest district of India.
· Kutch means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry.
· The Rann is known for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the shallow water dries up each season before the monsoon rains.
· Kutch lies on the India-Pakistan border, and you can see parts of Pakistan from here.