For some, winters can be cruel and monotonous and for the rest – a perfect excuse to advent to the desert of Kutch during the most mesmerizing months of the year in India. Hence it is in this tempting crisis, I take up the cause to introduce you to this celebration of
colours, cultures, and expressions. Magnificent is the word that one could simply use and glorify the natural beauty of Kutch.
You may have seen it many times in movies and pictures. The Rann of Kutch is also Bollywood's favorite shooting attraction. Movies like Lagaan, Ram-Leela, Mohenjo-daro, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Kai Po Che, Paheli, Refugee, Gori Tere Pyar Me, R…Rajkumar and many more. But, the first-hand experience of the White Rann is always better.
White Rann of Kutch start at its formation
The story of the formation of this desert of salt is more fascinating. Post-summer as the monsoon arrives, the waters of the Gulf of Kutch flood into this desert, making the White Rann look like a massive sea. On windless days, perfect mirror reflections of the sky are seen on these “desert waters”. From around July till late October-November, this part of the desert of the Great Rann of Kutch essentially resembles a sea! As the monsoon ends, this water starts receding and evaporating. The saline water then leaves a thick layer of salt, making the desert the White Rann of Kutch. Even without the water, the salt flats act like a mirror, reflecting the colours of the sky. On a crisp morning, they reflect the pink-orange-golden hues of the sunrise. On a hazy, cloudy morning, they look dull and forlorn. What stays constant is their larger than life expanse.
When does the Rann Utsav Start?
Organized by the Tourism Department of Gujarat, Rann Mahotsav is a grand winter rendezvous. It takes place when the air is crisp and the moon is at its fullest. Do check out their official website for exact dates ( http://rannutsav.com).
Well for starters and low budget traveller, Bhuj is the nearest city to Kutch and Bhuj has an airport which is 86 km away and takes 2 hours to reach Kutch. So plan your trip in a way that you reach Bhuj first and then make your way to Kutch. But, the flights to Bhuj will be costly due to less frequency which can raise your travel expenses by a great deal.
The cheapest and convenient way to reach Bhuj is by train. However, you might not get a lot of direct trains from your place and might need to reach Ahmedabad first. Due to train connectivity, it makes sense to either explore it as a weekend trip from Mumbai or you can combine it with a day trip to some heritage places around Kutch (Like I did) over a long weekend. By train, it will take 13 to 17 hours to Bhuj from Mumbai.
From Mumbai, you can take 22955 Kutch Express on Friday from Bandra Terminus at 05:45 PM and will reach Bhuj the next day around 08:50 AM.
Alternatively, to avoid bosses approval for leaving early, from Mumbai you can take 22903 Bhuj AC Superfast Express on Friday leaving Bandra Terminus at 11:45 PM and will reach Bhuj the next day around 12:40 PM.
For return journey from Bhuj, you can take 22956 Kutch Express on Sunday leaves from Bhuj at 08:15 PM and will reach Bandra Terminus next day around 11:25 AM
Bhuj to Kutch
Once you have reached Bhuj, you are one step closer towards Kutch and can reach the White Rann of Kutch quickly and easily from here. Here are a few ways in which you can go to the Great Rann of Kutch from Bhuj.
Great Rann of Kutch Tour Packages - which will cost you somewhere around ₹1500 to ₹2000 per person including a trip to both Rann of Kutch and Kalo Dungar.
Hire a Cab - probably one of the most expensive options as it can easily cost you around ₹3000 to ₹4000. If you are 4-5 people then you can consider this option but if you are travelling solo or in a group of two, then this will again be a little expensive.
Budget-Friendly Option - hire a bike/scooty in Bhuj. This is perfect for solo travellers and budget travellers. A scooty will cost you around ₹500 to ₹1000 for 2 days and it will take around two hours to reach Kutch from Bhuj. However, make sure you have your driving license with you. Also, take 2-3 layers of clothing as it can get really cold when riding to and fro to Kutch.
Where to Stay?
Desert King Resort - approximately 20 kms away from White Rann. Desert King Resort is too good and beautifully built. The rooms are well decorated with hand made handicrafts and mirror work. The food is very delicious even though it is simple homemade food. Well built in
the right place with trees and plants all around. Kutchi Bhungas are well maintained, spacious and luxurious. The location of resort is also awesome providing you peace and privacy too.
Day One: Kutch Nahi Dekha To Kuch Nahi Dekha
Reach the hotel complete the check-in and rest for a while. I would recommend starting post-lunch, just to avoid afternoon sun heat. But before 03:00 PM
From Desert King Resort it will take to one hour to reach the entry point of the White Rann, where you can park your vehicle and take a camel ride or walk upto the watchtower. A camel ride will cost you ₹100 per person one way.
Once you reach White Rann, you might wonder what is there to see around here except for the wide expanse of white salt. Well, don’t worry because there are several things for you to do here to keep yourself entertained and interested.
Here are a few top things that you should definitely try when visiting the Great Rann of Kutch.
Walk around the Great Rann of Kutch
One of the best and most amazing things to do in Kutch is to roam around the white desert. You will find several people over here doing the same. But don’t worry, the white desert is so huge that you can easily find some peace and solitude from the crowd. The white desert
looks so intimidating as you move forward and away from the land. There is absolutely nothing to see for miles except for the white salt. It makes you feel inconsequential and you truly understand what a small being you are in comparison to the entire world.
Delusions in the photography
White Rann is an absolute gold mine for photography. You can take numerous funky and creative pictures here and have an amazing photoshoot with different props and outfits. Trust me, even though you get a plain white background, you can really get a lot out of this backdrop.
When the sun goes down
I am absolutely and irrevocably obsessed with sunsets. So you can imagine my excitement when I watched the sun setting in the White desert. I was absolutely blown away by that sunset. The whole sky turns into a beautiful shade of orange and the white salt reflected a bluish tinge.
Go on a date with Moon (On a Full Moon Day)
White Rann is the place in India where you can witness the sun going down and the moon rising up simultaneously. Be the spectators to the beauty of nature.
On a full moon night, the salt dessert will be at its prime during midnight. Remember it will be very cold and breezy as the night goes ahead. The places will turn into much quieter, peaceful and calm. The land will glow in the moonlight. Nothing can beat the sight of full moon night. This moon washing will last me a while until I find my next destination. For security reasons, BSF might ask you to leave the place.
Day Two: Kutch Nahi Dekha To Kuch Nahi Dekha
To kick start your day two, you can go back to White Rann to see the sunrise, which is mind-blowing as said by local. Sunrise would be around 07:00 AM. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it do. Atleast will have something to see next time. So we start our day post breakfast and checkout from the hotel.
Kala Dungar - Black Hill
Kala Dungar is the highest point in the Rann of Kutch and is also known as the Black Hill. The view of the Rann of Kutch from this place is soothing to the eyes as you can see widespread water as far as your eyes permit.
Dattatreya Temple at the Kala Dungar which is a 400 years old famous temple. Legend says that when Dattatreya walked on the earth, he 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 has prepared a batch of prasad, cooked rice, that is fed to the jackals after the evening aarti.
Another legend has it that there was once a holy man named Lakkh Guru residing at Kala Dungar and worshipping the Lord Dattatreya. He used to feed wild jackals. There came a day when he found he had no food, so he cut off a part of his body and offered it to the jackals, saying, "Le ang!" ("take the body part"). Over the centuries, this got corrupted to "Long".
Kala Dungar Magnetic Hill
Lunch @ Umiya G
This place is undoubtedly the best place in Bhuj to eat authentic Gujarati Food which satisfies all your taste buds at an unbeatable price.
Prag Mahal & Tower
Prag Mahal, built-in 1860's by the great designer Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style. The palace was commissioned by Maharaja Pragmalji II and has been a joint contribution of both Indian artisans and foreign workers. The entire palace is made from
Italian marble and sandstone, the grand durbar hall with its classic status and chandeliers are the highlights of the Prag Mahal. This exquisite property has its clock tower, the top of which offers a panoramic view of Bhuj. The Prag Mahal boasts of the second-highest clock tower in India. A portion of the palace is converted into the museum, exhibiting several remnants and
personal collections of the royal family. In 2010, a part Prag Mahal was devastated due to the earthquake and the same is under renovation for quite a long time. The palace became immensely popular after part of the Bollywood blockbuster 'Lagaan' was shot here.
Visiting Hours: 09:00 AM to 11:45 AM & 03:00 PM to 05:45 PM
Aina Mahal Palace
The Aina Mahal in Bhuj is one of the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture constructed ever in India. This dreamy palace is the divine creation of Ramsinh Malam. The palace is unique and extraordinary in terms of interiors and architecture. Many water bodies and fountains are engulfed in the interiors of the palace, forming a variety of patterns that charms the viewers. Spread over two floors, the building features Darbar Hall, a hall of mirrors, and suites belonging to the various members of the royal family.
The fabulous Aina Mahal is a part of the extravagant Darbargadh Palace of Bhuj. Content and the architecture of the palace are associated with the life story of its architect, Ramsinh Malam, who was rescued by the Dutch when he got shipwrecked at the East African Coast. Later, he was taken to the Netherlands, where he mastered the art of tile making, enameling, and clock making. Years later when Ramsinh came back to Kutch, the ruler of Kutch- Rao Lakha gave him an opportunity to display his skills. The Aina Mahal was thus ornamented with Venetian-style chandeliers, silver objects, clocks –all made locally under the Ramsinh’s supervision. Superb local craft like scroll paintings, jewelled swords, ivory inlaid doors, and paintings depicting processions are displayed in the palace.
The museum is also a part of the Aina Mahal. Exhibits displayed in the museum include paintings, photographs, royal possessions and finest samples of the Kutch embroidery. An exquisite collection of the museum also includes a 15 meters long scroll that depicts the Royal Procession of Maharao Shri Pragmalji Bahadur. The fort also holds a compound; a portion of the same is almost in ruins. With so many attractions to see, Aina Mahal is surely a significant heritage of the Kutch region.
Visiting Hours: 09:00 AM to 11:45 AM & 03:00 PM to 05:45 PM (Except Thursday)
Shree Swaminarayan Prasadi Mandir
Accidentally saw this temple on the way to Prag Mahal, since I don't know anything about Swaminarayan but the temple is a masterpiece in Marble. You can describe it with all the adjectives from the books of architecture. Fine architecture, Good ambience, the mosaics
flooring and they allow cameras. The best part of this place the peace of mind and spiritual energy. The place is very much alive and so beautiful. Just for the note females are not allowed inside the temple.
Hamirsar Lake - peaceful and photogenic place. Walking along the lake's edge is a great way to get from one place to another, with the Aina Mahal and Praga Mahal, the Kutch Museum, the Ramkund Stepwell and Ram Dhun Temple and the Swaminarayan Temple all located very
close to the eastern side of the lake; a walk from the Aina Mahal to the Swaminarayan Temple (passing all the other sites mentioned), further around the other side of the lake is the Sharad Baug palace, and the road to the royal chhatris.
Other Must See Places In & Around Bhuj
Chhari Dhand - a paradise for bird watchers
Narayan Sarovar Kutch - one of the holiest lakes of Hindus
Dholavira Kutch - Rustic, beautiful and charming
Vijay Vilas Palace
Listen to Me
Since the Rann Utsav falls during the winter season, it is recommended you carry some woollens along
Enjoy the whitewashed landscape from Kalo Dungar (Black Mountain), the highest point in Kutch
It is mandatory to carry identity cards as they’re supposed to be presented at checkposts. Driving license, Aadhar Card, Passport, Voter ID and other such documents are accepted as ID cards.
It is important to note what you want to see in Rann Utsav. If you just want to do the sightseeing you can definitely stay outside Tent City. Without staying at Tent City, you can surely visit a few shops and eateries.
Tent City has its own events and function exclusive for the people staying in a tent city. There are not open to people outside.
You shall require a government pass to visit Kutch due to its proximity to the border. Passes are easily available at the check post in Bhirandiyra. You shall need passes for all days and it’s sufficient if one member of the group has a photo-ID in hand.
If you are staying in the Tent city or the White Rann Resort or have taken a stay package for Kutch, you don’t need a permit. Your tour operators or hotel managers will take care of it so that you can visit the Great Rann of Kutch without showing any permit.