The Great Rann (desert in Hindi) of Kutch extending across India and Pakistan is a near infinitum (7500 sq kms) stretch of white salt desert across Western Gujarat. During monsoon, this entire salty clay area of 7500 sq kms is filled with water which largely dries out leaving behind a layer of white salt on clay. Thousands of years ago, rivers Indus and its tributaries passed through the area filling it with water until the rivers changed course due to geological changes. The pristine white virgin land has stirred and inspired many a imaginative soul and I was no exception, being ever so keen to visit the Rann after briefly reading “Love across the Salt Desert” by K N Daruwalla.
When we reached there on a cool December evening, it was a carnival of sorts with hundreds of people enjoying their piece of Rann. We started walking ahead to merge into the endless stretch of white, seeing, feeling, smiling and wondering at this magnificent natural beauty. The spring in the step of the old couple who were mesmerised by the Rann, the camels and camel cart rides adding colour to the white, the odd horse ride, colourful kites floating in the wind or the game of national addiction (cricket) being played around were all a part of the Rann experience.
In the midst of all the excitement, we had to be cautious at every step lest our feet get stuck in the shallow salt marsh. My train of emotion was touched by the cheese moments, family picnics, the moments of quietude or the shy display of togetherness briefly interrupted by a loud mobile conversation. After some time the area came alive with a bus load of young girls who matched steps, giggling, laughing and singing peppy tunes with love in their eyes.
The best time to be there is in the evening to watch the sun set and the moon rise. The atmosphere is near magical and as the crowd disperses, sit around and soak in the moonlight and enjoy the quietude just like I did. You may be just lucky and get to hear the soul stirring haunting desert folk melodies from a local troupe.
My only request to every visitor is to keep the Rann clean and not throw around garbage carelessly. Inspired by my friend Arundhati, I followed her to carry plastic bottles and used plates to the nearest bin, the size and number of which was far too inadequate to cater to tourist rush.
Best Time to Visit: The best way to spend a day or two in the Rann is to drive down 60-70 kms from Bhuj and stay at the Sham e Sarhad, Toran Government Resort or in the panchayat resort in Dhordo. Being a sensitive border area, all visitors irrespective of nationality require a permit to enter the Rann which is issued on the way from Bhuj after submitting photographs, identification documents and the requisite fee. It is extremely hot in summer and ideally visited between October and March preferably on a full moon night. If possible plan a trip in December-January when the Rann Utsav is held in the desert. The Gujarat Government organizes special packages during the Rann Utsav the details of which can be found in their website.
The villages around the area are very rich in Handicrafts and plan to spend some time watching the mud mirror work, making of hand made bells and the Rogan Artist at work. There are quite a few sanctuaries around like Narayan Sarovar, Chaari Dand which continue to attract migratory birds year on year.
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