Incredible India – Great Rann of Kutch


If you have seen the promo for Gujarat tourism in TV, you may have heard Amitabh Bachchan saying, “Kutch Nahi Dekha Toh Kuchh Nahi Dekha”.  The line is so effective that it captures our imagination. So in my list of things to do in Gujarat, visiting Kutch was the most important one.

The district of Kutch is the largest in India so there are many places to visit in Kutch, but the one that Amitabh Bachchan wants you to see is the Great Rann of Kutch. Rann of Kutch is a shallow wetland which submerges in water during the main monsoon season and in the remaining months of the year, it transforms into the world’s largest white salt desert measuring over 16,000 square kilometers.

Rann of Kutch is about 7-8 hours by road from Ahmedabad, but there are no direct buses. Buses from Ahmedabad, both State government and private buses will only go up till Bhuj. Bhuj is the capital of Kutch district and it’s the last major stop on the way to the white desert.

Bhuj has recovered from the 2001 earthquake, but remains under-developed:

I and my friend Prashant took a late-night (11.30pm) bus from Ahmedabad and almost 7 hours later, we were on the streets of Bhuj, hunting for a hotel room.  I looked around for any remains of the massive 2001 earthquake which flattened the city, but there were none, but then, except for a couple of newish buildings, the place is nondescript and under-developed.

A Bhuj market place

A Bhuj market place

Getting good accommodation is difficult:

From the outside, Bhuj didn’t look like a place which sees a lot of tourists, but to our surprise, we found it difficult to find a vacant room. Almost all the hotels on either side of the main road were full. We knew we were in the middle of Rann Utsav season which runs from December to February every year, but didn’t expect Amitabh Bachchan to drive so many visitors into the place.

After some walking around, we did manage to find a place though. It was a small dingy room in a shabby old hotel facing a market place but the room was ideal for us as we didn’t want to spend too much money as we were only looking for a place to just freshen up.

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our small dingy room

Without Hindi, it’s not so easy to manage:

When we checked into the room we asked for 2 hours time and the room boy quoted the amount in Hindi. My ability in Hindi is elementary level and only recently I started to learn the language from my LKG-going daughter. Prashant is at a much better level than me, but even he struggled to figure out numbers more than one hundred. Our difficulty in figuring out numbers would often make us frown and scratch our heads throughout the trip. Most locals and shopkeepers cannot tell numbers in English so a little bit of tuition in Hindi, especially with numbers helps.

Tips: Keep a notepad with you so that you can ask the person to write down the numbers.

All South Indian are still Madarasis in Kutch:

Akbar Bhai, our cab driver is an old man. He asked where we are from. When we told Bangalore, he asked, “South India?” We said “Yes, South India”. “Oh, Madarasi!” he exclaimed, but without any hint of disrespect. Perhaps, the perception that all South Indians are Madarasis still remains among North Indians living in remote locations such as this, but Akbar Bhai simply didn’t seem to know there’s a place called Bangalore in India, so to save us from explaining that Bangalore and Madras are different, we nodded our head.

Stock yourselves with food items or you starve:

The Rann is about 80 kms from Bhuj. When we started from Bhuj, it was already 9:00 am and we didn’t have enough time to have breakfast. At 10:30 my stomach was crying for food. We drove for miles and miles but didn’t find any hotels on the way. At last, just before entering the Rann of Kutch checkpost, we found a small shop in a village by name Bhirandiyara. The shop had only biscuits and something called ‘Mava’ which is made out of milk, but I didn’t have the courage to try that.

Malar Mava Center (at the right) seems to be a much visited shop. I saw many photos in Flickr. I wonder whether it's run by a Madarasi, as the name 'Malar' is a typical Tamil name. Malar means  'flower' in Tamil.

Malar Mava Center (at the right) seems to be a much visited shop. I saw many photos in Flickr. I wonder whether it’s run by a Madarasi, as the name ‘Malar’ is a typical Tamil name. Malar means ‘flower’ in Tamil.

You have to pay money to enter Rann of Kutch:

The Rann of Kutch cannot be entered without a valid permit. When we heard about the permit even we were clueless on many things – what permit, where to get it and from whom and all that, but the entry permit isn’t a big deal. Just before you enter the last 10kms or so, there’s a checkpoint. You just have to fill a form, stand in queue and pay about 300 rupees, that’s all.

Just after Malar Mava Center in Bhirandiyara, there’s this police checkpost. Permits can be obtained from here.

Police Checkpost behind the auto

The huts behind are the Police Check posts

Application for entry permit

Application for entry permit

Have you seen cows on Air India?

The scenes on either side of the road were boring, and then we saw ‘Air India’. Do you see Air India in the below pic?

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No, don’t look at the sky. As per Akbar Bhai the plants on the field is called ‘Air India’. He went on to explain about it, but I didn’t understand anything. So when I came back to Bangalore, I wanted to research about it, but all I could see in Google images were old planes and equally old air hostess in blue saris – the most recognizable images of Air India, indeed!. But I think these plants could be some kind of indoor air purification plants.

The Great Rann of Kutch:

At 11:oo am, 2 hours after we left Bhuj, we reached the destination.

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the Great Rann of Kutch.

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This is me, fully covered up. Actually the weather wasn’t that cold, but we wanted to pose like Talibans. When we were taking turns to cover up and click photos of each other, we happened to overhear a person commenting about us to his friends. He was saying, “Look at these idiots, they are covering their faces and taking photos. When they show these photos to their friends how will they believe it’s actually them?”

As I told you, Rann of Kutch spreads over 16,000 square kilometers. You can enter the desert from multiple locations. We chose the Bhirandiyara – Dhorodo entry. Rann Utsav happens in Dhorodo.

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This road goes exactly 2 kms into the desert. Walk up to the end of the road to get your feet on the salt.

I took a lot of photographs, but this post is already too big so I’m trying to limit the number of photographs.

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You can walk on the salt without any fear of drowning – the salt flats are very hard.

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A close up shot. Footprints all over.

The Great Rann is definitely a great spectacle but there isn’t much to see unless you want to stay in one of the tents around and enjoy cultural programs at night, especially on a full moon night! But tents are very costly, it could cost you 7000 rs per head for a night.

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The Great Rann attracts a lot of visitors every year from October to February

Near the parking area, there was an exhibition cum sale going on. We went there to take a look.

This is one of favorite pics – the one below. I bought a bag for my wife from this guy.

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I bought a bag in the hope he would allow me to take his pics, and he did.

The border of the desert was strewn with tents.

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Amitabh Bachchan may tell you that if you haven’t seen Kutch, you haven’t seen anything, but if you have seen Kutch does it mean you have seen everything? No, obviously, there’s a lot to be seen before the sun sets on our life. We jumped into our cab and off we went – to the next location!

I don’t know whether I will ever get another chance in my life to set foot on these salt beds. Goodbye Great Rann

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About Joshi Mukard (85 Articles)
The author is a wandering soul with no place to call his home town. He was born in Kerala, brought up in several parts of Tamil Nadu, and currently living in Bangalore, shifting his base across the city on a yearly basis with fellow (unfortunate) wanderers, his wife (Libena) and little daughter (Tanaya). Despite all these, the author is a happy soul with no complaints on anything. He wakes up in the morning and sleeps at night and in-between he ducks, stumbles and dances through this world.

4 Comments on Incredible India – Great Rann of Kutch

  1. loved this one, especially the photos…

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A Kutch village somewhere in the middle of nowhere! | Tomato Blog
  2. Two Journalists in Nirona – Rogan Art & Copper Bells | Tomato Blog
  3. Chasing Shadows in a Desert | Tomato Blog

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