Opulence in a desert is usually unheard of, but in the Kutch district of Gujarat which is covered in white sands and salty marshes, is home to the Kutch Rann Utsav, a three month long festival, seeped deep into the colorful culture and heritage of Gujarat and the white sands of the desert, that turn into a canvas for the festivities to fill the colors into. For your first time at the Kutch Rann Utsav festival, here are a few pointers on how to make that one trip to Kutch your most memorable one ever.
Kutch Rann Utsav Dates: November 1, 2017, to February 20, 2018.
Where to stay: Tent city in Dhordo
Typical Package cost: min INR per person for 4 days
1. Dhordo and the Tent City: Where all the action of the Kutch Rann Utsav happens
First-time visitors to the Kutch Rann Utsav, are often startled by the beauty of Dhordo, the last village in Bhuj, on the way to the festival. Every year from October to February, the place is thronged by migratory birds from the farthest corners of the world, including Siberia, central Asia and Europe and is the ultimate birdwatcher’s haven, coupled with the visage of the smooth white sands of the desert. Also, a spot for automobile enthusiasts to test their rides, Dhordo sees a lot of action from locals and tourists alike. 400 AC and non-AC tents are set-up.
The Tent City erected in Dhordo is where the action takes place. The carnival of music, dance, and cultural performances take foreground as days and nights pass in a vivid flash of colors and sounds that are etched forever in any visitor’s heart. On special days, like New Year’s Eve, Makar Sankranti (for the Kite Flying Festival), Republic Day, Valentines’ Daiy, and in the concluding month, the Holi celebrations are the key days to visit the festival.
Camel Safaris, Local art and handicraft bazaar, a spa, meditation and yoga centre, live music concerts and folk dance shows and evenings, are the main activities that keep the guests enthralled and actively engaged with the Kutch heritage. Some of the best bets to take away as souvenirs are silver jewellery and artefacts, since Kutch artisans are known for their silver craft work, seashell toys that are unique to Kutch, beautiful wood carved furniture and decorations, and exquisitely embroidered clothes in traditional techniques like Suf, Khareek and Pako and painted ones like Ajakh, Batik and Rogan are not only rare, but make for the most exclusive gifting ideas ever.
2. Kalo Dungar
The Kalo Dungar is the highest peak in the Kutch area, and the perfect spot to see the whole of Rann with a panoramic view. The Dungar is also popular because of the famous Dattatreya Temple, which is of immense significance because of the folklore attached to it.
It is said, that when Lod Dattatreya walked the Earth, he stopped at Kalo Dungar and met with a band of hungry jackals. Seeing their plight, he offered his body for them to feast on. There on, his body regenerated and fed the jackals daily. For four centuries now, the temple officials leave food out for the jackals, which is prepared with a lot of reverence, and the tradition is kept alive. Tourists can spot the jackals with the help of a guide by visiting the temple during noon or at 7 in the evening.
Bhuj is where you’ll start off from, on your way to the Kutch Rann Utsav. It is the headquarters of the Kutch district and is the epitome of the man-made marvel of bringing life into the proverbial dead desert air, with colorfully clad natives, dressed to the T during festival season, complete with ethnic jewellery and decorated localities. Famous for beautiful handicraft, like bandhni – native tie and dye technique and leather work, and for its local delicacies like dabelies and the famous buffet of the Gujarati thali, Bhuj is the best way to kick-start your Rann Utsav tour. On your way, don’t forget to visit the Aina Mahal Museum and the Sri Swaminarayan Mandir, the two most popular tourist spots in Bhuj.
Sample Itinerary for Kutch Rann Utsav
And here is a sample itinerary for the Kutch Rann Utsav, so that you don’t even have to plan a lot:
Day 1: Arrive in Bhuj. Visit Temple, Bhuj Dunger, Aina Mahal Museum, Stay at Ethnic Resort/Homestay.
Day 2: Drive to White Rann. Visit famous potter and bell maker villages. Witness cultural performances and explore markets.
Day 3: Visit Kala Dunger. view of Kutch from the highest point, watch interesting rituals.
Day 4: Visit Chari-Dhand reserve, India Border. Head back to Bhuj for journey back to Railway Station
Extension: Head to Gir for wildlife safari or Head to the Border area