“The Land that all people desire to see,and having seen once,by even a glimpse,would not give that glimpse,for the shows of all of the rest of the world combined” – Mark Twain
Very aptly remarked by Mark Twain about my country – India. Endowed with natures bounty of mountains,Seas,Beaches and Deserts her beauty is enigmatic.The splendour of the mighty Himalayas is unparalleled.The long coastline has gifted many beautiful and serene beaches to the country.The unique White Desert the only one in the planet also exists in this marvelous country.
Legendary Actor Amitabh Bachan’s claims “Kutch Naheen Dekha toh Kuch Naheen Dekha” in a Gujrat Tourism advertisement is so true !!!.Seeing him against the backdrop of the vast White Desert made visiting Rann of Kutch a must visit destination.
I wanted to visit the place during the Rann Utsav(November-February) and on a Full moon night.
What is Rann Utsav?
Rann Utsav is celebrated from November-February every year with the help of Gujrat Tourism.It was started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2006 when he was the Chief Minister of Gujrat.
The Utsav showcases the Music,Dance,Handicrafts and Culture of Gujrat.Approimately 350 tents are organized.White Rann Resort being the largest Camp with Tent City being the second largest.There are smaller camps too.
So after checking for the full moon nights,we(My daughter and Myself)decided to book the trip from 22nd Dec-24th Dec.We booked the trip for two nights and three days with White Rann Resort,Dhordo. Simultaneously we booked the train tickets for Bhuj.Our pick up point was Bhuj railway Station or Bhuj Airport.The Flights for Bhuj were expensive and since we were paying a substantial amount on our luxurious stay with White Rann Resort traveling by train was an economical option.We booked our tickets in Kutch Express which has very convenient timings, leaves Bandra Terminus at 5.45pm and reaches Bhuj at 9 am the next day.(14 hours )When we booked the tickets in September one ticket was on waiting list.I kept a track of the PNR no and on the day of travel it moved to RAC. I was relieved because at least now we could board the train.We were overjoyed when just a few hours before leaving home we got the much awaited message from the Indian railways that our berths are now confirmed.(The dates prior to full moon nights are in great demand !!!).
Relieved and happy we set out for Bandra Terminus(Mumbai) and boarded the train.The train departed at the scheduled time and reached Bhuj at its scheduled time.The resort people contacted me and guided me to their enclosure opposite the railway station.
After depositing our luggage,we were guided to nearby Click Hotel to freshen up.Breakfast,Tea/coffee was arranged at the enclosure.
After Breakfast we started for Dhordo at 10 am which is 85 kms from Bhuj.We reached Dhordo at 11.30 am This barely traceable village hosts the Rann Utsav, a festival that celebrates arts, culture and beauty of Gujarat under one roof.
White Rann Resort is run by Gujrat Tourism in a public-private partnership.The resort has both AC Tents and Bhungas.
Bhungas are traditional houses unique to the Kutch region in Gujarat. The houses are circular walled with thatched roof. They are known for their structural stability in earthquakes and for being climate responsive. It also protects against sandstorms and cyclonic winds.
The resort has a dining area,reception desk, in the centre of the resort there is a stage with seating arrangements for the cultural show.Besides there is a playing area for children with swings etc.
After checking in and collecting our welcome gift(Cowboy hats)and coupans for all the meals,we headed to our tent I-01.The porters had deposited our luggage in front of our tent.The entire resort looked festive with colourful decorations.
A bike in the guise of a cart was decorated for the visitors to sit and take photographs.After a refreshing hot water bath.(The tent was well equipped with all modern comforts) we had delicious lunch from the buffet.We relished the Kutchi delicacies.Later we browsed around the shops in the resort.My daughter bought a dress for Rs 600.You can also book various adventure activities like Para-Sailing, Dirtbiking etc at the resort shops.
We relished the various delectable snacks served at High Tea, later we proceeded to board the bus to view the Sunset.The bus left at 5.15 pm it’s a 15 min drive to the Rann. One has to take prior permissions from the Border Security Force(BSF) to go inside the Rann. Permissions for entry was already taken by the resort staff.The bus is not permitted to go till the viewing point hence you have to walk for about 10 minutes or you can hire camel carts for Rs 50 per person. As we were a bit short of time we took the camel cart.
Mersmerising Rann of Kutch
What is Great Rann of Kutch ? The Great Rann of Kutch is a salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat.It is about 7500 sq km ( 2900 sq miles) in area and is reputed to be one of the largest salt deserts in the world.The White Rann is a unique phenomenon. You can see it only during the winters after the sea recedes post the monsoons leaving behind crystals of salt.
We were overwhelmed by the white expanse in front of us,it looked endless and we kept walking thinking we would reach the end.Some patches were soft and one has to be careful while walking.We didn’t climb the viewing point as it was very crowded.We sat in one place and waited for the sun to set which was to be at 5.45 pm.It’s the most exquisite sun set we ever saw.We often talk about sunsets/sunrises on oceans and mountains but sunset/sunrise on a white desert is spectacular and different.It was indeed a unique sight to see the sun set and the moon rise.As the phenomenon was taking place on opposite sides it was impossible to capture it on camera.
After getting mermerised by the sunset it was time to head back.We took the camel cart again while returning.We got a bit confused while locating our bus as there are many buses and vehicles parked.I had noted down the bus no which helped us to locate our bus.There are several buses for White Rann Resort but its better to go back in the same vehicle as it helps the organisers to keep track of the guests.We reached the resort at 7 pm The entire resort was lit with colourful lights which gave a very festive look to the place.
We first headed to take the complimentary photograph by the resort’s photographer. Therafter we headed for the Gala Dinner.We relished first the savouries at the chaat counter and the mocktails, later we proceeded for dinner which was a lavish spread.
The Cultural Show
After dinner we enjoyed the cultural show organised by the resort.The artistes were from two groups Kanhaiyalal and Seju group and Purvi Kala Kendra.
The Dances of Gujrat- Tippany Lok Nritya and Garba
We were introduced to the local musical instruments like Jodiya-Pawa(Two Flutes joined together),Mor Chank,Santar,Gado Tangaro,Jhanj(Big Manjeera) and Banjo( A mix of Guitar,Harmonium and Veena).The Artistes regaled us with their superb performances of the Tippani Lok Nritya and the famous Garba.To make our experience more enjoyable hot jalebis with milk flavoured with kesar was served.I had really overeaten during dinner but who can resist piping hot jalebis with milk !!!
Viewing White Rann during Full Moon
After the cultural show which was for one hour(9-10 pm) It was time to view the Rann in Full Moon.This time the bus left us at the viewing point.We again preferred to enjoy the place rather than cram up with people on the viewing stand.The White Desert shimmerd in the moonlight like a bejewelled bride.The whole desert was bathed in the moon light.
Photography with ordinary mobile phones and cameras was not possible so we got ourselves clicked by the resort photographer( Rs 300 each photo).The photos were emailed to us later.After that we just layed down and gazed at the moon.The experience was kind of surreal. Inspite of it being so cold we didn’t feel like leaving the place.
We spent about an hour admiring nature’s marvel.We had to get back by 11.30 pm,we found our bus and soon we headed back to the resort.We hit the sack at 12 am happy with the day and looking forward to the next day.
Sunrise at Rann of Kutch
We pulled ourselves from the bed for we had to assemble at 6.15 am for the sunrise.The heater kept us warm through the night.For the first time I experienced the extreme day and night temperatures of the desert.We Used the Air Conditioner during the day and Heaters at night 🙂 After wearing layers of clothing and covering ourselves with caps and gloves we braced the cold wind and reached the bus.The bus again left us near the viewing stand.We climbed the stand this time, as it was deserted and we found a good viewing spot.It was very cold and windy on top of the viewing stand.The sunrise was scheduled to rise at 7.20 am,we had to brace the cold winds for another 45 minutes. Slowly the specks of colour started spreading on the sky and the sun rose,the unmistakable ball of fire spread its light everywhere.It was exactly 7.20 am.I have seen the sun rising many times from mountains and sea but the view was spectacular on the White Desert.
We again experienced the unique phenomenon of the Sun rising and the Moon still there.I was spell bound by seeing both the Sun and Moon at the same time as if they are saying hello to each other 🙂 A phenomenon which I had not experienced anywhere in my travels so far.As both were in opposite directions we took turns to see both.I wish I could capture both the sun and moon in one frame.Nature keeps you engaged and certain things are best left as it is, just enjoy the moment instead of capturing everything on camera.It was nearly 8 am by the time we reached the resort.We freshened up and had a lavish breakfast.Post breakfast we slept off till lunch time.
After a satisfying lunch, we decided to visit the handicrafts mela(A kind of handicrafts fair) which was about 15 minutes walk from the resort.The colourful goods looked very tempting and inviting but we didn’t have much time, as 3 pm was the trip to Kalo Dunger(Black Hill).We decided to finish our shopping after we returned from our evening sight seeing.We had two places in the itinerary Gandhi nu Gaam and Kalo Dunger
Gandhi nu Gaam
Ludiya Village was devasted in the 2001 Gujrat eartquake.The Village was rebuilt with the assistance of Gandhi Ashram hence the name.It is a small handicraft village about 5 sq kms,occupants of the village belong to the Meghwal community there are about 2000 inhabitants.The village flaunts beautifully painted Bhungas.
The Bhungas have intricate glass decorations both inside and outside.The village is an aesthetic delight.
A Bhunga from Inside
We reached the village at about 3.30 pm The village is a visual treat.The women displayed beautiful hand embroidered crafts.You could choose from a plethora of colourful mirror work items like quilts, bedcovers,cushion covers,wall hangings,dresses,kurtis,footwear.
The men are adept in making wooden furniture and Jharokhas(Windows) After visiting many Bhungas we proceeded to meet Kheta bai. Her story is very interesting.In 1979 when the government was looking for a face of a local women for releasing a stamp,she was selected,but was however unaware till the stamp was released, after ten months.Her son and daughter-in-law run a small handicraft shop.We were told not to click any photographs of the women of the village.However I took permission from the son and clicked a photo with the proud lady.
We later bought a handmade purse(Rs 100) and a wooden paper weight(Rs 30).After meeting this interesting family we proceeded to have tea and snacks organised by the resort.We thereafter proceeded to Kalo Dungar around 5.30 pm.The bus had some problem climbing up due to the magnetic pull(The Driver told us this…however this can certainly be debated).We walked for some distance and thereafter boarded the bus for the remaining journey.
Kalo Dungar or Black Hill is the highest point in Kutch Gujrat at 462 m. It is located at 97 km from District headquarters of Bhuj and 25 km from nearest town Khavada.
This is probably 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 this point only military personnel are allowed.
The Kalo Dungar is also famous for the 400-year-old Dattatreya temple. Legend says that on his way, Dattatreya stopped at the Black Hills and found a band of starving jackals.Being a god, he offered them his body to eat and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. Because of this, for the last four centuries, the priest at the temple prepare a batch of prasad(Offerings made to God) – cooked rice, that is fed to the jackals after the evening Aarti.(Prayer)
After getting down from the Bus we first visited the Dattatreya Temple.
Later we walked to the Sunset Point.There were hawkers on both sides of the road and we bought a pair of colourful footwear for only Rs 220.We walked around and had a panaromic view of the White Desert.
We settled ourselves at a good spot to view the sunset, thereafter we tried to see the India Bridge through a binocular hawked by a small boy for Rs 10.We were spell bound by the Sunset from the highest point of Gujrat. After everyone assembled we started our return journey to the resort. Enroute our guide for the trip stopped the bus at the magnetic point of the road and asked the driver to switch off the ignition.We witnessed a unique phenomenon the bus hurtled down with the ignition switched off.Is it the magnetic pull or is the road on a slope which made the vehicle move on its own. Is indeed debatable !!!
White desert revisited on Full Moon
After reaching the resort we had a relaxing cup of tea in our tent and thereafter proceeded for dinner.By the time we finished our dinner it was time to revisit the White Desert again.We however missed the Cultural evening,we didn’t mind as we had already attended one, the previous evening.Since we had earlier visited the White Desert during full Moon we therefore decided to just sit and enjoy this nature’s marvel.We walked for some distance away from the crowds, it was quiet and the sky was pitch black except the moon shining gloriously and illuminating the entire desert.Its indeed a beautiful experience and I would suggest readers to make this trip during Full Moon Nights.
We returned to the resort at midnight.After reaching we packed our belongings as we were checking out the next morning at 9.30 am.Leaving the warm bed on a cold morning is always difficult but nevertheless we were up by 8.We kept our luggage outside our tent and proceeded for breakfast.After breakfast we went to the reception to collect our photograph,we were disappointed as it was not ready.After some delay we got the photograph and also a momento(salt of the Rann in a small bottle).My daughter was very happy to get this as she was unsuccessful in digging some on her own.The salt is hardened and you need some thing sharp like a spade to dig it out.It’s a very thoughtful gift by the resort organizers and we all appreciated it.After a delay of 20 minutes the bus left the resort and we were on our way for sightseeing in Bhuj
Bhuj town was established in 1510 A.D. This town was affected severely by the earthquake in year 2001. Now the city is reconstructed again and it is the central town for Kutch region. Bhuj town is well connected by rail,road and air to other parts of Gujarat state and neighbouring state of Maharashtra.There are number of sight seeing places in Bhuj like Aaina Mahal,Parag Mahal,Kutch Museum,Swaminarayan Temple,Dholavira and the beautiful Mandavi Beach,due to time constraint we could only visit Parag Mahal and Kutch Museum
We were dropped at the Kutch Museum at 11.30 am.Aaina Mahal closed by the time we took an autorickshaw (Rs 20 per person)and reached the palace.(Closes at 11.45pm) If you plan to see the Aaina Mahal and if you planning to visit during holidays be there by 10 am as you will encounter serpentine queues for entry tickets(Rs 30 per person).
Disappointed we bought entry tickets for Parag Mahal which is close to Aaaina Mahal.
This palace was built by Rao Shri Khengarji in 1548 A.D and developed into a palace complex over 300 years ago. Parag Mahal which is part of Darbargadh complex was built by Maharao Shri Pragmalji ( II ) in 1865 and designed by Col. Henry Saint Clair Wilkins in Neo-Gothic style. It is the first building in India to adopt Neo-Gothic style and subsequently several buildings came up in Mumbai.
The most significant element of the Parag Mahal is the 150 feet high Bing Bang Clock Tower visible from all parts of Bhuj town.As you enter, first you will see the beautiful Darbar hall, this is a big hall with several wall hangings, paintings, Jumers (chandeliers) and antique furniture. There is pair chair known as love chair. With high ceiling and antique furniture this hall gives a classic royal look.After the Durbar Hall you will see several other items like palique , sword and weapons on display. There is a room inside with antique furniture.The movie Lagaan was picturised here.There are several pieces of furniture displayed in all the halls.
After coming out of these halls you can visit the clock tower.You have to climb around 60 steps on a spiral staircase to reach at the top. There is one big bell and four small bells at the top. You can get a clear view of the surrounding areas of Bhuj town atop this clock tower.It is the best part of the palace. Entry ticket to the palace is Rs 30 per adult.Camera charges Rs 50 and parking charges for cars Rs 30.Two wheelers Rs 20.
After clicking few photographs we took the same auto rickshaw and returned to Kutch Museum.We bought the entry tickets for Rs 30 per person.Camera charges are Rs 50 for both video and still.It was 12 pm by the time we reached the Museum.
It is the oldest museum of Gujrat.The museum became a part of the School of Art
by Maharao Khengarji on July 1, 1877.Situated in the picturesque surroundings on the bank of the beautiful Hamirsar Lake, just opposite to the Nazar Bagh Garden, the Kutch Museum has been constructed in a Gothic architectural style. Kutch Museum consists of two floors of exhibits.It has 11 sections – a picture gallery, an anthropological section, an archaeological section, a separate section on textiles, weapons, musical instruments, a shipping section etc.
The archaeological section has two Indus seals (one from Khirsara and a square one showing a unicorn from the Indus site of Dholavira) and different kinds of stone tablets. The oldest is dated during the reign of Sarangdev Waghela in the 14th century.
Paintings showing different vocations of Kutch adorn the display. A section covering classical and musical instruments like various classical and folk instruments like Kani, Morchang, Nagfani, Dilruba and Veena give an insight into the ancient cultural practices in Kutch.
There is a fine collection of Kutchi silver and golden work, enamellings, textiles, wood work, coins, old utensils and other archeological objects. Here, a section on the communications of the district is also available.
A section of the museum is devoted to tribal cultures, with many examples of ancient artifacts, folk arts and crafts and information about the tribal people.Besides the museum also has exhibits of embroidery work, paintings, arms, musical instruments, sculptures and metalwork.The textiles section displays various textiles, fabrics and embroidered clothes of the tribes of Bhuj
The shipping section displays of Mandvi, artifacts, old coins, specimens of nut and knives crackers, ornaments, silver dishes etc.
On the ground floor in the central room is displayed Airavat, an Indian elephant, a carved, wooden, snow white elephant with seven tusks. It’s body is painted in the local kamagiri style with flowers and creepers. Airavat was made in Mandvi in the 18th century.Govt. of India issued a postal stamp commemorating Airavat.
We spent about an hour inside the Museum.So it was 1 pm by the time we left the Museum. After the Museum the next stop was the Beautiful Swaminarayan Temple which is a short distance from the Museum.The temple was closed(closes at 1pm reopens at 3pm).Since we had to board the train at 3.55 pm we decided not to wait for the temple to open.The temple looked magnificent from outside.We missed two places worth seeing in Bhuj, the Aaina Mahal and the Swaminarayan temple.If the resort staff had co-ordinated the timings a little better then maybe we could have seen these places.If you have time you can also visit the beautiful Mandvi Beach.The bus dropped us at Bhuj railway station at 1.45 pm.After keeping our luggage in the resort enclosure we had lunch at Click Hotel which is close to the railway station.There was a vegetarian Buffet for Rs 220 per person.The food was decent.On the recommendation of the hotel staff we bought sweets from Khavada Sweet Shop.The shop is about a km from the station and the auto charged Rs 60 to and fro.We bought Gulab Paak for Rs 360/kg and Kutchi Peda for Rs 320/kg and Pakwaan a crispy salty tea time snack for Rs 100/kg.These are the recommended famous Bhuj sweets and snacks.Later we collected our luggage and found the train already on platform no 1.We settled ourselves and the train departed at the scheduled time.The train does not have a pantry but they do take orders for food, we ordered a Vegetarian Thali for Rs 150.(Food was okay).We reached Bandra Terminus at the scheduled time of 5.15 am after booking a Ola cab, we reached home by 6.30 am with wonderful memories of the beautiful Rann of Kutch.This trip was also very special because for the first time I took a trip with my daughter.There has been family trips and also we did two treks together.Since this trip was not very hectic we had plenty of mother- daughter time which I will always cherish.I would end with this quote
“A daughter is just a little girl who eventually grows upto be her mom’s Best Friend”
Tips for Travel
!) Bhuj is well connected by Air,Road and Rail.I would recommend taking a train since the journey is not too long(14 hrs).The most convenient train is the Kutch Express.Book your tickets at least 3 months in advance if you are planning to visit during Rann Utsav and Full Moon Time.The best time is December.Alhough the festival starts from November-February.
2) It is best to stay near the Rann.So book your tents early.You can directly book White Rann Resort on this no, contact Mr Ankit Shrivastava +91 9426985889.It is run in partnership with Gujrat Tourism and Praveg a public-private partnership.The rates are available at their website http://www.whiterannresort.com There is another camp Tent City.These are the camps which are close to the Rann. Others are at some distance.
3) Carry Woolen jackets/Sweaters,Caps,Gloves ,Scarfs/mufflers.You will need them at night and early morning.