Kutch – The Seasonal Tortoise Island

“Travelling is almost like talking with men of other countries” said Rene Descartes. Talking to people, living centuries back is no doubt a great experience and a very unusual of its kind too. Kutch, with Great and Little Ranns offers this rarest of the rare opportunity to talk to people of 50 centuries back; those belonging to the Indus Valley civilization.

Kutch in Gujrat is a Kachho or tortoise shaped island that changes its outer structure according to the season. During the dry season, the Ranns are large stretches of hard and dried mud and the outer textures, with the deposit of salt looks white and hence the name’ the White Desert’. During the rainy season, they get flooded with seawater and freshwater, making the land barren for salty soil. Seneca said, “Every change of scene is a delight”.

Earth quake is inimical to Kutch. Once in 1819, changed the course of the Indus River, converting it to the present, ‘White Desert’ and during 2001, it cost 30, 0000 lives. Yet, the rugged and fiery beauty and inhospitable landscape of Kutch have kept the flow of visitors, un-ceased. The tribal villagers of Kutch have acquired global prominence because of the finest folk textiles with mirror work.

The Little Rann Sanctuary, spread over an area of 4953 square km protects the remaining population of Asiatic wild ass, known as ‘khurs’ and a huge population of birds. Flamingos breed naturally in this sanctuary. People here work too hard to earn their livelihoods by pumping out ground water and extracting salt.

The fascinating Aina Mahal mirrors the artistic skill and the aesthetic taste of Gujarati community. It showcases a 15.2 meter scroll showing the state procession of Kutch. The special features of its interior decoration are, blue and white Delphi style tiling.

There are few more palaces that were damaged by the earth quake, but still have objects of visitors’ interest, particularly the signs of aristocracy and the fancy and taste of Indian princes. The Sarad Bagh Palace, Prag Mahal holds the broken chandeliers in the Durbar Hall and gold-skirted classical statues. Several scenes of Amir Khan starred ‘Lagaan’ were shot here and also in another abandoned Vijay Vilas Palace.

Folk Art Museum displays toys, work of embroidery, paintings and traditional mud huts. Kachchh Museum exhibits ancient arts and crafts.

Towns and cities that could be visited in Kutch are Bhuj, the head quarter of Kutch, Kandla, a port; Gandhidham, a commercial hub; Anjar, famous for the legendary Jesal-Toral, Mandvi, famous for wooden ship-making industry; Mundra, a major port; Dholavira, famous for heritage sites, Bachau and Ajarakhpur.

Best time to visit Kutch is December-January, when the Kutch Mahotsav is celebrated during Shivaratri. Embroideries and jewelries are special attraction of the Kutch Festival.

Rudramata Dam, Narayan Sarovar, Mandvi Beach, Hajipur, and Mata na Madh are other places of interest for visitor.

Nature makes remakes and destroys too, just as the trinity denotes the creator, savior and the destroyer. Kutch stands mute witness to the ravages of nature and yet offers to visitors, ‘the delight of the changing scene’.