Kutch

Kutch, India’s Wild West, is a geographic phenomenon, full of rustic beauty. What appears an endless desert plain running dead straight for the horizon, is in fact virtually `a seasonal island` resembling a "Katchua or Kachbo" meaning tortoise, surrounded by seawater. It is a land of colour, culture and chronicle is one of districts of Gujarat where all the country`s smiles and metaphor appear to have come in concert. Ancient temples, attractive architectured palaces and rugged fort, men and women in vibrant costumes, Flamingoes and wild Asses, harsh sunlight, moderate rainfall and the cool evening breeze - are all there in abundance. Kutch ladscapse is flat and dry, but the villages dotted throughout the dramatic, inhospitable landscape feel like pre-partition Pakistan, and the tribal villagers produce some of India’s finest folk textiles, glittering with exquisite embroidery and mirror work. The district is also famous for ecologically important Banni grasslands with their seasonal marshy wetlands which form the outer belt of the Rann of Kutch. Kachchh District is surrounded by the Gulf of Kachchh and the Arabian Sea in south and west, while northern and eastern parts are surrounded by the Great and Small Rann (seasonal wetlands) of Kachchh. When there were not many dams built on its rivers, the Rann of Kachchh remained wetlands for a large part of the year. Even today, the region remains wet for a significant part of year. The Rann of Kutch is divided into the Greater Rann Of Kutch and the Little Rann Of Kutch.

The Greater Rann of Kutch: As the name suggests the Greater Rann Of Kutch spans an area of 7505.22 Sq. km and is comparatively larger than the Little Rann Of Kutch. The greater Rann of Kutch is home to a wide array of flora and fauna. Migratory birds deem it an abode during diverse weather conditions.

The Little Rann of Kutch: The Little Rann Of Kutch occupies 4,953 sq. kms and is spread out in the districts of Surendranagar, Banasakantha, Patan, Kutch and Rajkot in Gujarat. It is well known as The Wild Ass Sanctuary, named after endangered Ghudkhur that is seen here in large numbers. Established in 1972 the sanctuary came under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1973.

Tips

  • An interesting feature for adventure lovers is a jeep or camel safari in and across Rann of Kutch with tented camps on the baits. These trips add more thrill as they last for about a week.
  • For photography enthusiasts, special rides and camouflaged boats are provided.
  • A trip to a typical Saurashtra village and an insight into the art of handloom weaving and Dyeing Units can be enticing due to the vibrantly colored dyes and the exquisite craftsmanship. The age old craft of pottery can also be viewed from close quarters.
  • Tribal life is best experienced with the tribal people and there is no substitute for a stay at the typical tent. These camps are organized between July and September.
  • The Rann of Kutch is quite a sensitive area, due to its proximity to the Pakistani border. Therefore, written permission is required to visit it. This is obtainable from the Gujarat Police DSP office in Bhuj near Jubilee Ground (it's closed Sundays, and every second and fourth Saturday).
  • Keep extra time in hand while driving in Kutch because you may never know what treasures you may come across.
  • If you do wish to drive all the way to the end, reach India Bridge early, maybe before lunch.
  • Carry lunch with you when visiting Lakhpat and India Bridge, or you’ll go hungry!
  • Do not hog on the Kutchi food if you have a sensitive stomach, else you’ll end up throwing up.
  • Carry extra cash for unplanned shopping of clothes, bags, mobile covers, mud art, pottery etc!

History

The history of Kutch goes back to 3000 BC with the discovery of the traces of the Indus Valley civilization. The past is responsible for the varied culture in Kutch.

Kutch was formerly an independent state, founded in the late 13th century by a samma rajput named Jada, from which name the Jadeja rajputs derive their patronymic. The Jadeja dynasty ruled not only Kutch but also much of neighbouring Kathiawar for several centuries until the independence of India in 1947. In 1815, Kutch became a British protectorate and ultimately a princely state, whose local ruler acknowledged British sovereignty in return for local autonomy. A beautiful mirror palace, one surviving relic of the princely era is the Aina Mahal ("mirror palace"), built in the 1760's at Bhuj for the Maharao of Kutch by Ram Singh Malam who had learnt glass, enamel and tile work from the Dutch.

Upon the independence of India in 1947, Kutch acceded unto the dominion of India and was constituted as an independent commissionerate. It was created a state within the union of India in 1950. On November 1, 1956, Kutch was merged with Bombay state, which in 1960 was divided into the new linguistic states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Kutch thereupon became a part of Gujarat state. After the Partition of India in 1947, the province of Sindh, including the port of Karachi, ended up in Pakistan. The Indian Government constructed a modern port at Kandla in Kutch to serve as a port for western India in lieu of Karachi. Kutch has also experienced frequent earthquake since medieval times. Kutch has experienced over 90 earthquakes up till 2001. Much of Bhuj was destroyed or damaged as were many villages. Many of the attractions of Bhuj including the Aina Mahal have still not been restored.

Fun facts

  • Of the twenty-three species of bustard found in the world, the Great Indian Bustard, found in Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in Gujarat, is the only one listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • The home of the last remaining population of khur (wild ass) in India. There is also a bird population, particularly of the large flamingos. Both are protected in 5,000 km Little Rann Sanctuary, near Dhangadhra; one has to get permission to enter from the sanctuary superintendent's office in Dhangadhra.
  • The Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat, home to the endangered Asian Wild Ass, is the largest wildlife sanctuary of India.
  • At night, an unexplained strange dancing light phenomena known locally as Chir Batti (ghost lights) occurs in the Rann, the adjoining Banni grasslands, and the seasonal wetlands.

Culture

Simple living yet dynamic in thoughts, raring to move forward this the strong belief of the Kutchis. Sturdy in their vision yet completely invaginates. Not afraid to think out of the box and experiment, but firmly anchored to their traditional roots. The Culture of Kutch is so prosperous, vibrant and authentic that will surely mesmerize you in every way, this is Kutch, weaved in its colourful dream.

Sea, desert, farming and cattle raising are included in Kutch`s culture. It also includes people`s dress ups, their festivals, their habits and their artistic side. Kutch district is inhabited by various groups and communities. Many of these have reached this region after centuries of migration from neighbouring regions of Marwar (Western Rajasthan), Sindh, Afghanistan and further. Even today, one can find various nomadic, semi nomadic and artisan groups living in Kutch. The people of Kutch are known for their hospitality and warmth of conduct. Religion and religious fairs are interwoven in Kutch's culture.

Shopping

Shopping in Bhuj is definitely a lifetime experience. Bhuj is a fascinating place to be in because of its gateways, old palaces, ornate temples and winding lanes. There are quite a few shopping centers that make shopping in Bhuj quite easy.

The embroidered garments with mirror-work and the camel wool shawls are extremely famous; as is the chunky silver jewellery and carved woodcraft. The items on offer in the Bhuj markets also include silver jewelry, gold jewelry and many other items. Tourists come from every corner of the world and from all over India for shopping in Bhuj, Gujarat. Tourists should be good at bargaining because the bargaining skill will definitely be required. The shopkeepers dress up in traditional clothes. The shopkeepers purposely charge high prices because they know that the visitors will bargain. The bazaars in Bhuj follow the old traditional style of displaying goods and items. Hodko, Bhirandiyara, Ludiya and other nearby villages are famous for their handicrafts.

Where to stay

There are a number of dining and lodging options available in the main town and city area of this region. One can choose from the number of options available there.

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Where to eat

Hotels & vegetarian food is available. Mostly of the eatables are made out of milk, bajara and wheat. Kutch's staple diet does not include rice but pulses (dal) are available.

Best time to visit

Being in the arid area of the country, the climate of the Kutch region is extreme: hot during summer and very cold during winter. Summer is rather severe in the entire state of Gujarat. The amount of rainfall is very less and during the rainy season the area experiences very scanty rainfall. As the winters are comparatively bearable and pleasant, the best time to visit this place would be between November and March. Woolens in sufficient numbers are required during the winter months.

It's best to head out into the Rann of Kutch only in the early morning or evening, otherwise the salt can be blinding. The full moon is the best time of month to see it, and cultural programs are usually held at Dhordo then. A moonlit Rann camel safari is magical.

For a real cultural extravaganza, visit during the month-long Rann Ustav, which usually begins in mid-late December. The government sets up hundreds of luxury tents on the edge of the Rann of Kutch for visitors.

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