Something ‘hatke’!! This seems to be the new mantra these days. From cellphones to shoes to hair colours, people are vying for something hatke. Why not a hatke destination then? The Rann of Kutch, which is the world’s largest salt desert, offers a fascinating experience. It is the most amazing tourist destination to travel to, with friends as well as family either on short weekends or on long sojourns. The annual two-month-long Rann Utsav revels in the many hued adventures & celebrations that the state has to offer. This year the festival commenced on 1st of December and is set to conclude by the 5th of March 2015.
The Bollywood filmmakers too seem taken with the Rann. The serene yet captivating landscape of the Rann of Kutch has caught the fancy of filmmakers in the recent times. And with as many as four movies like Ramleela, R Rajkumar, Gori Tere Pyar Mein and The Good Road, the white beauty of the Rann is splashing on the big screen. With The Good Road being selected as the official entry into the Oscars, Kutch now seems to be going international.
The Rann of Kutch is a large area of salt marshes and it is divided into two main parts; Great Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch. The Rann of Kutch is located in the Thar Desert bio-geographic area in the Pakistani Province. Think of a desert and the first thing that springs to mind is acres of desolate land, desiccated of the last drops of water, unyielding to both flora and fauna. No wonder then that the thought of a desert attracting visitors aplenty does sound almost unbelievable and at the very least intriguing. The Great Rann of Kutch however, is a desert unlike any other, lying at a distance of 72 km from Bhuj in Gujarat. Officially, the world’s largest salt desert, blanketing 16000 sq.km of Gujarat and the Sindh Province in Pakistan, the desert is yet another example of the artistry of Mother Earth. The thing, however, that truly marks out the Rann of Kutch from other deserts of its kind is that the area is lost to water during the monsoon season, remaining submerged for a good four months, while bedazzling the observer with gigantic parcels of white sand in the remaining light. Thousands of years ago, rivers Indus and its tributaries passed through the area filling it with water until the rivers changed course due to geological changes.The desert owes its name to the Hindi word ‘ran’ that stands for ‘desert’. Home to the Kutch People, the desert is unforgiving hot during summers. Still, nature has found a way of breeding here as well, as evidenced by the multitude of plant life with grasses such as the Cenchrus species as well as juiceless prickly shrubs that are found in plenty.
Kutch is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, being home to over 350 species of birds including the migratory Lesser Flamingo. The arrival of winters and the Great Rann of Kutch is transformed into a breeding ground for flamingoes and pelicans. The Rann holds exclusivity in the sense that it is the only place in India where flamingoes breed and is a dwelling for around 13 species of lark. Also renowned for the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, it has the last surviving population of wild ass along with ménages of the desert fox, golden jackal and the Indian Wolf among others.
Apart from all the activities that will keep you busy there are daily tours organised into other parts of the surrounding region. A popular trip is a ride to Kalo Dungar which is the highest point in Kutch and from where you can witness a panoramic view of the Great Rann. Other places of interest worth seeing are the Madavi beach and Dholavira which is an excavation site of the ancient Harappan civilisation.
A cradle of craftsmanship, Kutch is known for its exquisite variety of weaving, patchwork, block-printing, bandhani, tie-and-dye, rogan-art and other ethnic styles of embroidery, pottery, wood-carving, metal-crafts and shell-work. The variety emerges from the enchanting terrain that provides a perfect backdrop to an extra ordinary fair. Perhaps because the landscape is so white and ochre, even a hint of colour adds a fascinating element to the rustic life of Rann.
Last but definitely not the least, one should NOT miss the sight of the glittering salts under the full moon light. So if you are looking for something off-beat to experience, the Rann of Kutch is a must-visit place for you. Get planning!
Team Veena World