A land of colour, culture and spectacular topography, Kutch is filled with rustic beauty. What appears like an endless desert plain running dead straight for the horizon is in fact a seasonal island edged by the Gulf of Kutch and the Great and Little Ranns
It is a magnificent landscape of dazzling white salt, The Great Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh that spans an area of 7505 sq km. During the dry season, the Rann is a vast expanse of hard dry mud. If you arrive in monsoon, the flat desert is flooded with standing water. The Great Rann of Kutch has many guises. Salt crystals dazzle like diamonds under the scorching sun and the still vastness almost appears eerie under the bluish glow of the full moon.
The beauty is parched, battered and surreal, the Little Rann of Kutch is an endless stretch of brown thirsty desert. Housed within this expanse is the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary which is India’s largest wildlife sanctuary and that spans an area of 5000 square km. The sanctuary is home to the only surviving population of the Asiatic- Indian Wild Ass locally known as the ‘Ghudkur’.The sanctuary is a great place for avid bird watchers. Flamingos, Pelicans and Common Cranes are a common sight in the winter months and are usually found either on marshy land or idling near a water body.
With a rich past, the city of Bhuj is a maze of old intertwining alleys. Ravaged by the great earthquake of 2001, the city has been rebuilt completely. The Black Hill, also known as ‘Kala Dungar,’ is the highest point in Kutch and looms over the Great Rann. One of the five largest Harappan sites in the Indian sub-continent, Dholavira is located in the Khadir Bet Island in Kutch. One of the most remarkable excavations of the Indus Valley Civilization dating back 4500 years ago, well-preserved specimens of many structures typical of the ancient civilization can be found in Dholavira.
As you move forward, an hour down the road from Bhuj, Mandvi is a busy little town with an amazing shipbuilding yard. The heart of the town is lined with beautiful old buildings in faded pastels. The Modhva fishing village is a great stop for bird enthusiasts. Thousands of flamingos, dozens of crab plovers and hundreds of other shore birds flock here. Often seen in backdrops of Bollywood movies, the Vijay Vilas Palace used to be the summer palace of the Jadeja dynasty of Kutch. The palace is built of red sandstone in the Rajput style and the balcony at the top offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.
During the full-moon nights of the winter every year, amidst an awe-inspiring landscape, a three-day festive extravaganza brimming with hospitality and traditional flavour is held. This cornucopia of music, dance, colours and culture is known as the Kutch or Rann Mahotsav. The artisan villages across Kutch are home to some of India’s finest handicrafts and textiles, glittering with exquisite embroidery and mirror-work. Houses are often decorated with designs made from mud, and the most popular textile techniques include block printing, tie dye and weaving.
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