Rann of Kutch

White Rann

White Rann

…. Rajesh Deshpande © 2015. Based upon my personal visit in February 2015.

Destination Type – Salt Desert. Trip Type – Leisure. CLICK HERE to view photostream of Rann of Kutch

The surreal ‘Rann of Kutch’ is a mesmerizing expanse of a seasonal salt marsh situated in the Kutch (Kachchh) district of Gujarat, India. It is seasonally formed due to water filling in the flat desert of salty clay mudflats during Indian monsoons. After the monsoons, water evaporates leaving behind salt which crystallizes to form the White Rann. The White Rann along with the Banni grasslands to its south and the Little Rann to its east spans an area of about ten thousand square kilometers. It is the largest seasonal salt marsh in the world with huge reserves of natural gas beneath it. The Rann is located few miles above the Tropic of Cancer. Its vast expanse is clearly visible from space.

White Rann from Kalo Dungar

White Rann from Kalo Dungar

The splendor of White Rann leaves one spellbound due to its radiance during the nights around a full moon. During daytime, a spectacular halo is rendered on the horizon due to light reflected from the salt. The Rann is truly a wonder of nature, a unique ecosystem with a salt marsh, elevated grasslands and sandy islets around it fostering life. It is rich in fauna – the Indian Wild Ass, Fox, Hyena, Peacocks, Chinkara, and birds like the Indian Bustard and Flamingos are abundant in the Rann.

White Rann from Lakhpat Fort

White Rann from Lakhpat Fort

The Indo Pak international border passes through the Rann of Kutch, 90% of the Rann is on India’s side and 10% is on Pakistan’s side. The 1965 Indo Pak war had sparked off due to a dispute over the Rann of Kutch in addition to the dispute over Pak occupied Kashmir. The blockbuster Bollywood movie ‘Refugee’ starring Abhishek Bachhan and Kareena Kapoor was filmed at various locations in the Rann of Kutch.

Vestiges of an era bygone

Vestiges of an era bygone

How to Reach?

The White Rann and the entire Kutch district is accessible from Bhuj city. Bhuj is the headquarters of Kutch district. It is 840 Kms from Mumbai. Access to White Rann is through Dhordo village which is at a distance of 80 Kms from Bhuj. Resorts are situated 5 Kms before the White Rann at Dhordo. Some new resorts are spurring up in the stretch of Banni Grasslands between Hodka and Dhordo villages. Being remote border villages, there’s no public transportation, cabs or ricks available in the Rann. It is thus recommended to hire a tourist cab from Bhuj and hold it during the stay at White Rann. The locals travel in a country vehicle called ‘Chhaakda’ powered by a diesel engine. It is crammed with about 20 people on board, certainly not recommended for city dwellers.

By Train – From Mumbai, there are two daily trains for Bhuj. The Bandra Terminus to Bhuj – Kutch Express leaves at 5:10 PM and reaches Bhuj at 9:30 AM next day.  Sayaji Nagari Express, also from Bandra Terminus to Bhuj leaves at 2:15 PM and reaches Bhuj at 7:25 AM next day. Both trains pass through major cities like Surat, Vadodara and Ahmedabad. There are many connecting trains for Bhuj from Ahmedabad. For more details and reservation, visit http://www.irctc.co.in, http://www.indiarailinfo.com or http://www.erail.in

By Road – Private A/C sleeper buses operated by Siddhivinayak travels and Patel travels run daily between Mumbai and Bhuj. Tickets cost between Rs. 1,000/- to Rs. 1,200/- per seat. If travelling by own vehicle from Mumbai, take the NH8 up to Ahmedabad and then NH8A passing through Viramgam up to Bachhau. From Bachhau, take SH42 up to Bhuj. From Ahmedabad, ST buses and private buses operated by Sahajanand Travels and Swaminarayan Travels are available for Bhuj. From Bhuj there’s an ST bus to Dhordo once a day.

By Air – Bhuj is the nearest airport. Daily flights from Mumbai to Bhuj are operated by Jet Airways and Air India.

Royalty of Kutch

Royalty of Kutch

Best time to visit

The Rann of Kutch is an extreme geography with temperatures soaring to 49.5 degree centigrade during summers and dipping to less than 10 degree centigrade during winters. Best time to visit the Rann of Kutch is during the winter months from December to February. The climate is pleasant during this time of the year during the day. Nights are cold. Gujarat Tourism hosts the Rann Utsav for three months from December to February every year at the Tent City to showcase the culture, cuisine, art and craft of Kutch region.

Remnants of a Palatial House, Kutch

Remnants of a Palatial House, Kutch

General Tips

Gujarat ST buses ply to Dhordo once a day from Bhuj. However, travelling by ST bus is not recommended. Hiring an tourist car from Bhuj is preferred and holding the car during the stay at Rann is highly recommended.

‘Travel Kutch’ opposite Bhuj bus stand is a one stop shop for all travel needs in the Kutch region. Contact Dharmesh Khatri – 09426136955 for booking a tourist cab, for air tickets and railway reservation or a tour of Kutch. There are many small tour operators near Bhuj bus stand.

Being India’s western frontier, the Rann of Kutch has heavy presence of Border Security Force (BSF) and Gujarat Police. Entry in to the Rann is thus regulated and requires a inner line permit per individual and per vehicle. The permit could be obtained from the check post at Bhirandiyara village, 30 Kms before the White Rann or from the office of Dy. Inspector General (DIG), BSF at Kodki Road, Bhuj or from the newly opened permit office at the Gateway to Rann Resort, at Dhordo village, the last village of India.

Splendor of White Rann

Splendor of White Rann

It is possible to visit the international border at Viga Kot by obtaining a permit from DIG, BSF office at Kodki Road, Bhuj. From Viga Kot, it is possible to see Pakistani out posts across the border from Indian side. Photography, Videoshooting and use of mobile phones isn’t allowed at Viga Kot. Electronic equipment like mobile phones, tablets, cameras and camcorders must be deposited with BSF personnel at India Bridge before proceeding to Viga Kot.

Carry a government issued valid photo identification like Passport, Driving License, PAN card, or Aadhar card. This is required at the Bhirandiyara check post for obtaining a permit to visit the White Rann.

The permit issued is valid for two visits per day to the White Rann and currently costs Rs. 100/- per person per day and Rs. 50/- per car per day. For additional visits, the amount needs to be multiplied accordingly.

There is a fully operational branch of Dena Bank at Dhordo village with an operational ATM. There’s also an operational solar ATM of State Bank of India next to Dena Bank at Dhordo village. The ATM operates from 8 AM to 8 PM only. These two ATM’s may run out of cash or may not work due to technical issues. It is thus recommended to carry sufficient cash while travelling from Bhuj as credit / debit cards are not accepted at resorts in the Rann.

Resorts and the Tent City are situated five kilometers before the White Rann. Resorts  are operated by local NGO’s and village gram panchayat’s from October to March. The Tent City has an Adventure Zone and Shopping Complex.

There are no restaurants in and around the White Rann and one has to fully depend on the dining facilities at the resort. The Tent City has food stalls operated from 9 AM to 9 PM during the Rann Utsav.

Distances from Bhuj to various important points en route the White Rann are:

Bhuj to Bhirandiyara check post – 52 Kms

Bhirandiyara check post to Hodka village – 12 Kms

Hodka village to Dhordo village – 17 Kms

Dhordo village to Tent City – 02 Kms

Tent City to BSF Tower post – 02 Kms

BSF Tower post to White Rann – 03 Kms 

Kings Chamber in Aaina Mahal

Kings Chamber in Aaina Mahal

Things to do

An Odyssey to the Rann of Kutch is incomplete without exploring the Kutch district. Inspite of being barren and inhospitable, Kutch is rich in culture, arts, crafts and its charming people. An ideal way to explore Kutch including the White Rann is to camp at Bhuj for two days, at the White Rann for two days and at Mandvi for a day.

Starting the odyssey from Bhuj is a good idea, Bhuj has many local attractions like the Prag Mahal, Aaina Mahal, Ram Kund, Hamirsar Lake, Kutch Museum, Chhatries and Nutan Swaminarayan Mandir.

Chariot - Aaina Mahal

Chariot – Aaina Mahal

BHUJ

Prag Mahal and Aaina Mahal – Prag Mahal palace was named after Rao Pragmalji II. It was completed in 1879 CE during the regency of King Khengarji III, son of Rao Pragmalji II. Prag Mahal is constructed using marble and sandstone in the Italian Gothic style architecture. It has a Victorian style clock tower and a museum displaying the artefacts and collections of the erstwhile royalty.

Prag Mahal

Prag Mahal

Aaina Mahal is older than Prag Mahal and was built by Rao Lakhpatji in 1761 CE. It has white marble walls with mirrors and shades of venetian glass. The palace was severely damaged during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake.

Even though Prag Mahal and Aaina Mahal are in the same complex, there are separate entry tickets to each palace. The entry fees are Rs. 40/- per person per palace. Camera fee is Rs. 50/- per still camera per palace. Both palaces remain closed in the afternoon between 12 – 3 PM.

Ceiling of a chamber in Aaina Mahal

Ceiling of a chamber in Aaina Mahal

Ram Kund – is a stepped well in the precincts of the Raghunatha Mandir. It resembles the Chand Baoli in Rajasthan.

Ram Kund

Ram Kund

Hamirsar Lake – named after the Jadeja King Rao Hamir, Hamirsar is a 450 year old man made lake in the heart of Bhuj city. It was built during the regency of Rao Khengarji I for supplying water to the people of Bhuj. Many of the important monuments like Prag Mahal, Aaina Mahal and Kutch Museum are situated besides the lake. In fact, the entire Bhuj city seems to have evolved and expanded around the lake.

Hamirsar Lake

Hamirsar Lake

Chhatries – are royal cenotaphs of the erstwhile Jadeja rulers of Bhuj at the southern end of Hamirsar Lake.

Nutan Swaminarayan Mandir – is a sparkling white temple complex constructed after the old temple was damaged during the Gujarat earthquake of 2001. It is a little ahead on the road from Kutch museum.

Nutan Swaminarayan Mandir

Nutan Swaminarayan Mandir

Staying camped at Bhuj, go on a day excursion to Mata na Madh (shrine of goddess Ashapura Devi), Lakhpat, Narayan Sarovar and Koteshwar. While returning to Bhuj from Mata na Madh, a visit to Khetabapa Mutt at Vithon village off SH42 at Devpar is a rewarding experience.

MATA NA MADH, LAKHPAT, NARAYAN SAROVAR, KOTESHWAR

Mata na Madh – is the temple of goddess Ashapura revered by millions not only in Gujarat but in neighboring states of Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Some devotees practice penance in various forms like walking bare feet to madh from far off cities or crawling up to madh with a faith in their hearts that their wishes would be granted by goddess Ashapura. Photography is prohibited inside the temple precincts at Mata na Madh.

Road to Lakhpat

Road to Lakhpat

Lakhpat – is an old town in ruins situated inside a fort at the extreme western frontier of India besides the Kori creek. According to legend, this ancient town had an income of one lakh per day in the days of yore from sale of crops, hence the name. The land at Lakhpat was green and fertile few hundred years ago due to the Sindhu (Indus) river flowing in to its estuary to the west. Due to geological changes, the river changed course making the region barren, saline and infertile. The landscape changes dramatically at Lakhpat from grasslands and shrubs on one side to the barren salt marsh on the other side. The old fort of Lakhpat has a Gurdwara called Lakhpat Gurdwara Sahib worshiped by the Sikhs. It is believed that Guru Nanakji had stayed at Lakhpat during his pilgrimage to Mecca. The fort also has a tomb of Sufi Saint Pir Ghaus Mohammed who is revered by both Hindus and Muslims. The song ‘Panchhi Nadiyan Pawan’ of the Bollywood blockbuster film ‘Refugee’ was filmed at Lakhpat.

Lakhpat Fort

Lakhpat Fort

The BSF Border Out Post – BOP Lakhpat is in Lakhpat fort overseeing the Kori creek. The international border between India and Pakistan is about 50 Kms from here across the Rann and passes through Sir Creek. The barren Rann in between is completely inhospitable with hyenas, foxes, snakes and scorpions in the marshes. Intruders, and terrorists attempt to cross the border in to India from the Rann. BSF patrols the Rann round the clock to keep a vigil on the border and to foil any attempt of infiltration by the enemy. The salinity of the marsh and quick sand beneath makes it impossible to fence the border.

Temple of Lord Vishnu at Narayan Sarovar

Temple of Lord Vishnu at Narayan Sarovar

Narayan Sarovar – is a sacred pilgrimage of Hindus about 30 Kms south east from Lakhpat. The temple complex has a temple of Lord Vishnu along with some Vaishnav temples. There’s a man made pond besides the temple complex which gives the place its name. The temple trust serves free meals to all and is the only place to relish a hearty meal as there’s no hotel serving good meals at Narayan Sarovar.

Koteshwar – is 4 Kms from Narayan Sarovar. It has a 400 year old Shiva temple atop a high plinth. It is the western frontier of India at the mouth of Kori creek.

View from Koteshwar Temple

View from Koteshwar Temple

It’s now time to say good bye to Bhuj and move on to the next destination on the itinerary – the most sought after White Rann. On the road to White Rann, a detour to Nirona village is highly recommended for a glimpse of the 300 year old Rogan Art kept alive by Khatri Gafoor Bhai and his family, the only family of nine artists in India who knows this amazing art. Rogan means ‘Oil based’ in Persian. Castor oil is heated for more than twelve hours till it reaches its flash point and catches fire. It is then mixed with cold water where it thickens in to a residue which is called as Rogan. Later, Rogan is mixed with natural colors and stored in water bowls to prevent it from drying. The secret of making the Rogan and natural colors is known only to Khatri Gafoor Bhai and his Uncle.

The Rogan artist uses a six inch metal stylus to vigorously whisk a dollop of Rogan on his palm to extract a fine viscous thread which is painted on the fabric free hand. The artist draws instantaneously out of his imagination without any prior sketch. No two creations of the same artist thus look similar. Rogan painting is done on cotton or silk fabric to make stoles, dupattas, kurtas and wall paintings. The most intricately done Rogan masterpiece is the ‘Kalpavrusksha’ or the ‘Wish fulfilling divine tree’. Rogan painting is different from fabric painting, the embellishment of Rogan painting can be easily seen and felt on the fabric. Rogan painted fabric costs in the range of Rs. 1,500/-  to Rs. 1,00,000/- depending on the detail and intricacy of work and production time. Khatri Gafoor Bhai is putting in efforts for training young artists to preserve and promote this rare art. Other than Rogan Art, Copper Bell making and Lac work are popular crafts at Nirona village.

Drawing a Rogan Art Flower Motif

Rogan Painting – flower motifs

Copper Bell Craftsman

Copper Bell Craftsman

WHITE RANN

The White Rann becomes a carnival site during the Rann Utsav held from December to February every year. Tourists enjoy camel cart rides, kite flying, horse rides and powered glider joyrides. As the evening sets in, crowds begin to recede and the atmosphere gets filled with divine silence. The Rann comes to life when the moon rises on the eastern horizon. The experience of being moon washed amidst the serene expanse of the Rann is truly blissful. Indeed a feeling of being blessed by mother nature.

Sunrise in the White Rann

Sunrise in the White Rann

Reserve two full days around a full moon for an unforgettable experience of the White Rann. Evenings must be reserved strictly for experiencing the desert charm of the White Rann. Any haste to hop over to another destination would lead only to repentance later.

While at the White Rann, a day excursion to Hodka, Bhirandiyara and Khavda villages is a must for having a taste of local art and craft – Embroidery, Mud Mirror art and Pottery. Kalo Dungar and India Bridge are two popular destinations that are visited as a part of this excursion. The Charri Dhand wetland reserve is a place where many species of birds flock together, its the mecca of bird watchers and ornithologists. The wetlands are near the village of Charri Dhand, 15 Kms off the beaten track from Dhordo. It could be reached only in a 4-wheel drive vehicle through a mud road.

Assortment of Copper Bells

Assortment of Copper Bells

Lac Coating

Lac Coating

During the Rann Utsav, Border Security Force (BSF) hosts a camel show daily at 6 PM near the parking lot of White Rann. The colorfully decorated BSF camels and their jockeys perform to the tune of marshal music, indeed a treat for the eyes and a proud moment for witnessing the grandeur, discipline and preparedness of our armed forces.

Camel Show, BSF, 136 BN, BOP Dhordo

Camel Show, BSF, 136 BN, BOP Dhordo

Kalo Dungar – literally Black Hill, is the highest point in the Rann. Kalo Dungar has a temple of Lord Dattatraya atop. It is 90 Kms from Bhuj on SH45. Midway on the road uphill Kalo Dungar, there is a 50 meter stretch of road passing through a natural magnetic field. Cars get automatically pulled up at a speed of 20 Kmph along with passengers on this stretch of road through the magnetic field. Kalo Dungar has three viewing points that provide imposing view of the White Rann around.

People of Kutch

People of Kutch

People of Kutch

People of Kutch

India Bridge – is the last bridge of India towards the international border. It is guarded by BSF soldiers due to its strategic importance for being the only logistics link for transporting supplies, ammunition and reinforcements to troops stationed along the border (up to Viga Kot, 45 Kms away). Photography of India bridge is strictly prohibited.

It’s time to bid adieu to White Rann and move towards the next destination – Mandvi in southern Kutch. Popular for its Ship Building business, Mandvi has lot more to see and experience.

Bauter Jinalay, Khodai

Bauter Jinalay, Khodai

MANDVI

An excursion to Mandvi is truly memorable. Visit the Bauter Jinalay on the road to Mandvi at Khodai village. The Wind Farm beach, Ship Building yard, India House – a memorial of revolutionary freedom fighters and the Vijay Vilas palace are major tourist attractions of Mandvi. Ambe Dham at Godhra village is a beautiful temple of Goddess Amba, 18 Kms from Mandvi.

Mandvi Beach

Mandvi Beach

Silhoutte taken at Mandvi beach

Silhouette taken at Mandvi beach

Vijay Vilas Palace – was the summer palace of the erstwhile Jadeja rulers of Kutch on the shores of Mandvi. It was built during the regency of Rao Khengarji III in the 19th century. It is 7 Kms to the west of Mandvi town and has its own private beach, a tent camp and a resort. Many blockbuster Bollywood films were filmed at Vijay Vilas Palace – Beta, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Commando, and Rajkumar to name a few.

Vijay Vilas Palace, Mandvi

Vijay Vilas Palace, Mandvi

Dome of Vijay Vilas Palace

Dome of Vijay Vilas Palace

Descendants of the royal family occupy the first floor of the palace during summers. The palace has a museum on the ground floor. Entry fee to Vijay Vilas Palace is Rs. 40/- per person and camera fee is Rs. 50/- per still camera and Rs. 25/- per mobile camera.

India House – is a memorial of revolutionary freedom fighters of India on the shores of Mandvi. It is a replica of the north London based high gate manor house of eminent freedom fighter and scholar Shyamji Krishna Verma. The original India House in London had served as a hostel for Indian students studying in British universities. It was a prominent centre for revolutionary nationalism outside India having eminent freedom fighters like Lokmanya Tilak, Vinayak Savarkar and Madam Cama as its members. Shyamji Krishna Verma published a newspaper called ‘The Indian Sociologist’ from India House and launched intellectual attacks on the British government on its own soil.

India House, Mandvi

India House, Mandvi

Mandvi’s India House replica is a two storey mansion built on a sprawling campus maintained by Gujarat government. The ground floor of the mansion has a library and an auditorium. The first floor has a gallery of revolutionary freedom fighters associated with India’s first war of independence of 1857 CE. The second floor has a gallery of revolutionary freedom fighters of India’s freedom struggle. There’s no entry fee.

India House remains closed every Thursday. During weekdays it is open to public from 10 AM to 6 PM and up to 8 PM on Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

Wind Farm Beach – is a long and wide stretch of sand with a lineage of wind mills. Tourists flock to grab their share of the beach and to enjoy the sun and sand. The beach has a chowpatty with stalls selling chaat, tender coconut, gola, corn along with recreational activities like camel and horse joyrides. The brave hearts can enjoy Parasailing and Jet Skiing.

Wind Farm Beach, Mandvi

Wind Farm Beach, Mandvi

Ship Building Yard – Ship building was a flourishing trade at Mandvi few years back. The trade is still alive without its glitter and glory on the banks of Rukmavati river near its confluence with the Arabian sea. Craftsmen could be seen building large wooden ships for local and foreign clients, mainly from Arab countries. The trade is diminishing by each passing year due to low demand.

Ship Building Yard, Mandvi

Ship Building Yard, Mandvi

Ambe Dham – is a temple of goddess Amba at the village of Godhra, 18 Kms west of Mandvi. The sprawling complex is spotlessly clean with a sparkling white temple of goddess Amba. The temple trust provides free meals to all.

Ambe Dham, Godhra

Ambe Dham, Godhra

The odyssey of Kutch can be concluded with a visit to the town of Anjar. The Bhareshwar Mahadev temple – an ancient Shiva temple and Jesal Toral Samadhi are the main attractions at Anjar. On the way to Bhuj from Anjar, visit the Arts and Crafts park at Bhujodi village.

Set aside at least six days to explore Kutch. A recommended itinerary is given below:

Day 1 – Explore Bhuj. Overnight at Bhuj.

Day 2 – Excursion to Mata na Madh, Lakhpat, Narayan Sarovar, Koteshwar. Overnight at Bhuj.

Day 3 – White Rann – visit Nirona and Zura villages on the way. Evening stroll in White Rann. Overnight at White Rann.

Day 4 – Morning stroll in the Rann. Excursion to Khavda, Kalo Dungar and India Bridge. Evening stroll in the Rann. Overnight at White Rann.

Day 5 – Mandvi – visit Bauter Jinalay on the way. Overnight at Mandvi.

Day 6 – Anjar. Leave from Mandvi to Anjar and onward to Bhuj. 

White Rann Parking Lot

White Rann Parking Lot

Where to Stay?

At Bhuj – Although a small city, Bhuj has many Hotels and Lodges. Most of the swanky hotels are located on the new station road. Hotel Prince, Hotel Oasis, Hotel iLark and Hotel KBN are popular hotels and are located within 500 meter distance on the station road. All hotels are three star or equivalent with in house restaurants, laundry, power backup and travel desks. Price ranges between Rs. 2,000/- to Rs. 4,000/- for an A/C Deluxe Room. Hotel Mangalam is a new hotel on Mandvi road on the outskirts of Bhuj. For a budget stay, Annapurna Lodge at Bhid gate on station road is a good option.

At White Rann – The Rann has few options to stay put. Gujarat Tourism has erected the Tent City at village Dhordo. The tent city has air-conditioned tents with attached toilet and bathrooms. It has an in house restaurant. The tent city also has an adventure zone which offers joyrides of powered glider, camel safari and other recreational activities. In the evening, a cultural show is organized at the tent city to showcase the culture of Rann.

Tent City, Rann Utsav

Tent City, Rann Utsav

The best place to stay put at the Rann is the Gateway to Rann Resort, also at Dhordo village. It is managed by the Dhordo Gram Panchayat and operated by local villagers of Dhordo. The resort has unique ‘Bhunga’ or mud hut style accommodation for experiencing the real taste of life in the Rann. The A/C and Non-A/C Bhunga’s have attached toilet and bath. The resort organizes cultural events in the evening to showcase the culture of Rann. It has an in house restaurant that serves authentic and delectable Kutchi cuisine.

Toran Rann resort is a new resort, also managed by the Dhordo Gram Panchayat. It is the closest resort to White Rann 3 Kms away. Accomodation at Toran resort is in Bhunga’s. Sham-E-Sarhad resort is perhaps the oldest resort in the Rann at Hodka village which is about 17 Kms before Dhordo. It also offers Bhunga accommodation. There are many new resorts budding out in the Rann region.

Reservation at the Gateway to Rann resort and Toran Rann resort is online at http://www.kutchrannresort.com. For reservation at the Tent City – Rann Utsav, contact Akshar Travels, Ahmedabad.

At Mandvi – The swankier beach camp at Mandvi Palace is in the precincts of the Vijay Vilas Palace, 7 Kms west of Mandvi town. It has tent style accommodation near its own private beach. There’s also a resort operated close by in the same premises. Bookings can be done at their office at Ahmedabad. More details could be found at www.mandvibeach.com

The newly started Serena Beach Resort near India House is another swankier resort bang on beach, 2 Kms from Mandvi. There are some good budget hotels like Hotel Sea View on the bus stand road near the ship building yard and Rukmavati guest House (an old hospital turned in to Hotel) also on the bus stand road.

Terrace of Vijay Vilas Palace

Terrace of Vijay Vilas Palace

Shopping

‘Shop till you drop’ is the mantra of shopping while in Kutch. A paradise for souls who are fond of handicrafts. Be prepared to burn a hole in the pocket as there’s so much to shop in Kutch.

Bhuj – Shop for tie and dye sarees and dresses i.e. Bandhani or Bandhej (as it is locally known) at Dawood Khatri’s shop at Daanda bazaar road in Bhuj. There are also many shops selling embroidery and Bandhani dresses on Anam ring road in Bhuj.

Bhujodi – 8 Kms from Bhuj is the arts and crafts park at Bhujodi village. The park showcases various arts and crafts of the Kutch region like Embroidery, Block Printing, Bandhani, Rogan Art, Wood Carving, Pottery and Mud Mirror work. Bhujodi also has many shops selling Embroidery and Bandhani, the most notable being the shop of Vishram Valji Vankar.

Rogan Art Handicrafts

Rogan Art Handicrafts

Embroidered Bedsheet

Embroidered Bedsheet

Nirona – is a small village off the road to White Rann. It is known for the art of Rogan painting preserved and practiced by Khatri Gafoor Bhai, a National Award winner. Also popular at Nirona are the crafts of Copper Bell making and Lac work.

Rogan Color Palette

Rogan Color Palette

Mud Mirror Work

Mud Mirror Work

Embroidery

Embroidery

What to eat?

Kutch region is a foodies paradise. Kutchi food is a little different from traditional Gujarati food. A typical Kutchi thali consists of Green Salad, Sev-Tomato na Saag, Doodhi Chana na Saag, Baingan Bharta, Aloo Baingan na Saag, Bhindi na Saag, Curd, Bajra Roti, White Gudh (Jaggery) and White Butter, Khichadi, Kadhi, Puri or Rotla and a dessert which could be Jalebi or Shrikhand. Chaas is the ubiquitous cooler to balance the gastronomic overload after a hearty meal. Kutchi food is spicier than Gujarati food, it is predominantly prepared from millets, lentils, clarified butter and curd.

Kutchi Thali Meal

Kutchi Thali Meal

Kutchi Thali meal – Feasting on a Kutchi thali is the quintessential thing to do while at Bhuj. For authentic Kutchi thali, Annapurna restaurant at Bhid gate on station road is the best. Annapurna was featured in the popular TV show ‘Highway On My Plate’ on NDTV Good Times channel. Nityanand restaurant near bus stand is also a popular joint for Kutchi thali. Sankalp is a fine dine restaurant of Oasis Hotel, it serves authentic Kutchi delicacies but not a full thali meal. But more than Kutchi cuisine, Sankalp is famous in Bhuj for its specialty South Indian cuisine which also includes the niche Chettinad, Mangalore (Malbari) and Kerala cuisines. The restaurant of Hotel Prince also serves authentic Kutchi food but is priced on the higher side.

At the White Rann, the restaurant of Gateway to Rann Resort at Dhordo deserves a special mention for serving authentic Kutchi meals to resort guests. At Mandvi, Osho Hotel in the crowded market area serves the most fabulous and scrumptious Kutchi thali meals in the whole of Kutch. A lip smacking and tummy bloating unlimited thali meal costs an unbelievable Rs. 100/- which is worth every penny. A hearty meal at Osho Hotel is a must to experience the joy of feasting.

Khaman, Jalebi, Phaphda and Bhajiya

Khaman, Jalebi, Phaphda and Bhajiya

Dabeli – Dabeli to Kutch is what Vada pav is to Mumbai and a lip smacking Dabeli cannot be missed while in the Kutch region. Mandvi Double Rotiwala near bus stand at Bhuj sells the best Dabeli in town. Gaba Dabeli is the best in town at Mandvi.

Pakwan, Satha, Pedha, Gulab Paak, Farsan – are some unique snacks, savories and sweetmeats of the Kutch region. Pakwan is a savory similar to Khari, it is also known as Kara or Khara. Satha is a sweetmeat similar to Balushahi or Khaja, while Gulab Pak is a barfi.

Pakwan (Khara)

Pakwan (Khara)

Khavda Sweets and Snacks is a popular chain in Bhuj and nearby towns selling the best Pakwan and Satha.  Farsani Duniya is another joint in Bhuj little away from the bus stand on Dhatiya street, it is popular for Sweets and Farsans. Kandoi Velji at Saraf Bazaar in Bhuj is known for its Pakwan, Satha and Farsans.

Mawa

Mawa

Mawa – is a sweet made by reducing milk slowly on a low flame. It is garnished with dry fruits and condiments. Mawa is a popular sweet at Bhirandiyara village. The chain of Khavda Sweets in Bhuj also sells delectable Mawa.

Khaman, Phaphda, Jalebi, Bhajiya – are Gujarat’s staple breakfast items. Thelas or small stalls across the towns in Kutch are the best places to relish these sweets and savories. Khaman is the yellow snack made from chickpea flour, mistakenly known as Dhokla in rest of the country. Phaphda is a savory eaten with Jalebi and raw papaya chutney. Bhajiya is the ubiquitous Kanda Bhajji of Maharashtra or Onion Pakoda of North India.

Farm Fresh Kesar Mangoes – While driving from Bhujodi towards Bhuj, stop before the railway crossing to tuck in few glasses of farm fresh Kesar Mango pulp at Bhudiya Kesar Farm. Bhudiya grows Kesar mangoes in its own organic orchards at Bhujodi. Bhudiya also sells canned Kesar Mango pulp, canned Kesar Mango slices and an assortment of fruits, fruit juices, concentrates and cottage products.

…. Rajesh Deshpande © 2015

12 Comments

12 thoughts on “Rann of Kutch

  1. Kunal Patadia

    Excellent Blog. Very Informative…

    Like

  2. Fabulously well written piece..The Rann is indeed mesmerizing..very few places in India which has a calming effect on self..pics are awesome..

    Like

  3. Chaitanya

    Awsome description… Will revert to this when I plan my visit here… Keep writing.!

    Like

  4. VERY GOOD INFORMATION FOR KUTCH TOUR …

    Like

  5. Dinesh Pai

    I am very impressed by your blog.

    Very informative and at the same time precise from a traveller’s point of view.

    Especially liked the section devoted to food and cuisine, since it is an important component of any travel experience in India. The diversity in cusines is simply put mindboggling.

    Like

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