Surrounded by the north and east by marshy flats and on the south and west by the Gulf of Kutch and the Arabian Sea, the province of Kutch promises to be unadulterated experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It has over the years, attracted thousands of tourists, who come here to visit the Great Rann of Kutch, which is an endless sweep of salt marsh, stark and mesmerizing. And while the Rann of Kutch is an unmissable affair, there are many places around the region that merit a visit and hold huge rewards for travellers who are willing to step out and explore.
While the Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal, Kutch museum captivates travellers with unique pieces from Indian history, the Vijay Vilas Palace shows how even Bollywood was awed by this incredible monument. While the villagers of Dhordo and Hodka mesmerize you with their beautiful handicrafts, the Indian wild ass is one of the main attractions among wildlife enthusiasts.
Read on to find out why Kutch deserves to be next on your list of places to visit in the country.
Interact with the traditional artists of the region
Although the Rann of Kutch is known for its starkness, it is not an ideal situation for a flourishing flora and fauna. Yet despite its starkness, there are many artistic and pastoral communities that inhabit this region. They have devised their own methods of survival and a rich tradition of handicrafts that has added an elegant touch of ornamentation to the barren landscape. In fact, for a craft enthusiast, Kutch is a treasure chest where each village has something unique to offer.
How to reach: Khavda Village is 72km/1hr10min north of Bhuj
Ideal for Ajrakh Prints and Clay Pottery
Generally belonging to the Maldhari and Rabari community, the men from this caste are easily identifiable by the piece of Ajrakh cloth that they wear. This cloth is usually worn as a lungi, a turban or simply thrown over a shoulder as a shrug or stole. Having an intricate block print, this fabric is produced in a Khvada, a small village not far from the India-Pakistan border. Additionally, the process of creating this fabric is not easy and is quite labor intensive with patterns, mostly inspired by Islamic architecture. The best way to check the authenticity of the fabric is to wash it and see if the colors run.
This community also has a high proficiency in clay pottery, which is reflected in the items they produce like pots, bowls, plates, small urns, jugs and glasses. All of them are made from a distinguishable red color that comes from geru, a natural dye applied onto the surface of the objects using a piece of cloth.
If you have more time, head to Hodka (64km/1hr north of Bhuj) for exquisite hand-embroidered clothes which are sold as quilts, bedspreads, kanjiris (long blouses) or hair accessories. You can also stop at Bhujodi ( 9km/15min east of Bhuj) for handloom textiles. Trust us, there is something here for every type of handicraft and textile lover!
Visit the Kutch Museum – Bhuj
If you are the one who likes to dive into the entirety of historical cultural, the Kutch Museum is a storehouse of treasures awaiting you. Located in Bhuj, Maharao Khengarji founded the Kutch museum way back in 1877. The oldest museum of Gujarat, Kutch museum proudly stands at the centre of the city and has the most extensive collection of Kshatrapa inscriptions from 1st century AD. “Koris” the local currency of Kutch till 1948 are also stored here. Moreover, the remains of the extinct Kutchi script are also displayed at the museum as well.
VTip: The museum is also home to the Airavat, which is a carved, wooden the snow-white elephant with seven tusks carved out of wood. It was constructed in the 18th century. Also, in 1978, the Indian Government issued a postal stamp, depicting this ‘Airavat’, under the postal series Treasures of Museum.
Camel rides, beach visits & more
Camel rides are fairly common phenomena on the Mandvi Beach that is located 60.2 kms from Bhuj. While riding the camel, the view of giant water pelicans strolling on the beach is quite mesmerizing.
In case you are looking for a less touristy alternative, head to the beach near Vijay Vilas Palace, which is long, clean and private. Once you have had your fill of the beach head to the interior of the town, which is lined with beautiful old buildings in faded pastel hues and temples with wildly sculpted, cartoonlike facades. It’s a true delight for photographers as well.
Meet the artists responsible for Gujarat’s famed Rogan art
Although Nirona is a small village with simple concrete homes with open terraces, it was put on the global map when recently PM Modi presented a rogan painting to erstwhile U.S. President Obama. Practiced by the Khatri community, who are the sole practitioners in the region, it is said that rogan painting came to India from medieval Persia.
Rogan means oil-based and the colors used are natural dyes mixed with castor seed oil. Although the results are rewards, the process of creating these artworks is pretty tough. Most of the artists have to work in the heat, without fans as they cannot afford to have the fabric fluttering and paint sticking if the cloth folds. After painting, the fabric is dried in the sun for at least a day. Almost all the designs are inspired by nature—the most common is the tree of life—which have over the years got finer. In addition, Rogan is drawn freehand, without stencils or tracing. Besides rogan art,
Nirona is also home to the Kutchi makers of ghantadi or copper bells that are tied around the cattle to help their herders identify them. Here, you can also find the Wadha families that make lacquered wood objects, using lac extracted from insects. It is one of the few places in the country where real lac, and not synthetic paint is used. If there is one place that you can visit during your stay in Kutch, we recommend you go here.
How to reach: Nirona is 40km/50min northeast of Bhuj and 370km/7hr from Ahmedabad
Go for a safari in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Rann of Kutch
Spread across 4,953 square kms, the Rann of Kutch is arid but holds a lot of promise for avid wildlife enthusiasts. Although it is home to numerous mammals like chinkara, striped hyenas, white-footed foxes and jackals, its star attraction is the Asiatic wild ass for whom, this region is also the last place, where they are found. Keep in mind that since the area is pretty huge, a jeep safari is the best way to explore the region. It usually lasts three hours and the sections of the sanctuary that you want to visit depend on your interest.
The Rann of Kutch is also a thriving ground for various bird species. In monsoon, the Arabian sea sweeps across the land, which in turn attracts a lot of birds. This region is believed to be the only nesting colony of lesser flamingoes. It is also home to a number of other species like demoiselle cranes, lesser floricans, Dalmatian pelicans, steppe eagles and merlins among others.
When to go: To experience the wildlife of this region, head here between October and March. It is flooded during the monsoon, from June to October. While wild ass foals can be spotted right after the monsoon, November to February is best for birding.
Rani Ki Vav: One of the biggest and most extravagant step-well in the state, it consists of a multi-storey pavilion, a well and a large tank for surplus water. Walk down the stairs and you will discover of delicate carvings and statues that date back to hundreds of years. It is quite evident that this monument was constructed not just to store water but also as a venue for worship and socializing. The walls are covered with carvings of Parvati, Shiva, Vishnu, and other religious gods. Although it is said to be constructed between 1022 and 1063 A.D., the structure was excavated only in 1958 and is now very well preserved. Next to the well, there is a big lawn and a small museum stands outside the entrance. It nicely depicts the history of the area’s architecture and is quite insightful, so make sure you stop by it.
How to reach: Rani ki vav is 70 km/1.5 hours from the Rann
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