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About Kutch

Rann of Kutch

The Great Rann of Kutch, along with the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands on its southern edge, is situated in the district of Kutch and comprises some 30,000 square kilometres (10,000 sq mi) between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of the Indus River in southern Pakistan. The marsh can be accessed from the village of Kharaghoda in Surendranagar District.
 

In India’s summer monsoon, the flat desert of salty clay and mudflats, which average 15 meters above sea level, fill with standing waters. The greatest extent between the Gulf of Kutch on the west and the Gulf of Cambay on the east get united during the monsoon.

The area was a vast shallow of the Arabian Sea until continuing geological uplift closed off the connection with the sea, creating a vast lake that was still navigable during the time of Alexander the Great. The Ghaggar River, which presently empties into the desert of northern Rajasthan, formerly emptied into the Rann of Kutch, but the lower reaches of the river dried up as its upstream tributaries were captured by the Indus and Ganges thousands of years ago. Traces of the delta and its distributary channels on the northern boundary of the Rann of Kutch were documented by the Geological Survey of India in 2000.

The Luni River, which originates in Rajasthan, drains into the desert in the northeast corner of the Rann. Other rivers feeding into the marsh include the Rupen from the east and the West Banas River from the northeast.

There are sandy islets of thorny scrub, forming a wildlife sanctuary[4] and a breeding ground for some of the largest flocks of greater and lesser flamingos. Wildlife, including the Indian wild ass, shelter on islands of higher ground, called bets, during the flooding.

Climate

This is one of the hottest areas of India – with summer temperatures averaging 44 C (111 F) and peaking at 50 C (122 F). Winter temperatures reduce dramatically and can go below 0 C (32 F).[5]

Flora and fauna

The plant life of the marsh consists of grasses such as apluda and cenchrus species along with dry thorny shrubs.

In winter, the Great Rann of Kutch is a breeding ground for flamingos and pelicans.[6] It is the only place in India where flamingos come to breed and is home to 13 species of lark.[7] The Little Rann of Kutch is famous for the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, home of the world’s last population of Indian wild ass (equus hemionus khur or khar). Other mammals of the area include the Indian wolf (canis indica), desert fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla), golden jackal (canis aureus), chinkara (gazella bennettii), nilgai (boselaphus tragocamelus), and the near threatened blackbuck (antilope cervicapra).

The marshes are also a resting site for migratory birds, and are home to over 200 species of bird including the threatened Lesser Florican (eupodotis indica) and Houbara bustard (chlamydotis undulata).

Religions

Many religions are found here like Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism & Islam.

Threats and preservation

Although most of the marsh is in protected areas, the habitats are vulnerable to cattle grazing, firewood collection and salt extraction operations, all of which may involve transportation that disturbs wildlife. There are several wildlife sanctuaries and protected reserves on the Indian side in the Rann of Kutch region. From the city of Bhuj, various ecologically rich and wildlife conservation areas of the Kutch/Kachchh district can be visited such as Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Banni Grasslands Reserve and Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve.

Indo-Pakistan international border

In India the northern boundary of the Greater Rann of Kutch forms the International Border between India and Pakistan, it is heavily patrolled by India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and Indian Army conducts exercises here to acclimatize its troops to this harsh terrain.

This inhospitable salty lowland, rich in natural gas, was one scene of perennial border disputes between India and Pakistan that, in April 1965, contributed to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Later the same year, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Harold Wilson persuaded the combatants to end hostilities and establish a tribunal to resolve the dispute. A verdict was reached in 1968 which saw Pakistan getting 10% of its claim of 9,100 square kilometres (3,500 sq mi). 90% was awarded to India, although India claimed 100% of the region. Tensions spurted again in 1999 during the Atlantique Incident.

Chir Batti

At night, an unexplained strange dancing light phenomena known locally as Chir Batti (ghost lights) occurs in the Rann,[9] the adjoining Banni grasslands, and the seasonal wetlands.

Popular culture

J. P. Dutta’s Bollywood film Refugee is shot on location in the Great Rann of Kutch amongst other locations in the Kutch district. This film is said to have been inspired by the famous story by Keki N. Daruwalla based around the Great Rann of Kutch titled “Love Across the Salt Desert”,[11] included as one of the short stories in the School Standard XII syllabus English text book of NCERT in India.[12] The film crew traveled from Mumbai and was based in the city of Bhuj and most of the film shooting took place in the Great Rann of Kutch (also on BSF-controlled “snow white” Rann interior), villages and Border Security Force (BSF) Posts in Banni grasslands and the Rann, Tera fort village, Lakhpat fort village, Khera fort village, a village in southern Kutch, some ancient temples of Kutch and with parts and a song filmed on set in Mumbai’s Kamalistan Studio.

Amitabh Bachchan in his advertisements for Gujarat Tourism titled Khushboo Gujarat Ki has also extensively shot in the Rann of kutch.

Several scenes in Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize winning novel Midnight’s Children take place in the Rann of Kutch, including a scene where the protagonist faints from heat stroke in the Rann’s famously brutal climate.

Tourism

The Government of Gujarat hosts an annual 3 day festival called the Rann Utsav (festival of the Rann), where tourists can see the various sights of the Rann as well as get a taste of the local culture, cuisine and hospitality. Specially built local houses are also used to house tourists to give them a taste of them.[14] Many adventure clubs and travel clubs organize expeditions.

Handicrafts

The unique handicrafts of Kutch are world famous.[15] A lot of women and young girls make their living by selling different types of embroidered cloths. The embroidery is of various styles such as Rabari, Ahir, Sindhi, Banni, Mutwa, Ari and Soof – and some styles include mirror or bead inlay.

See also

Rann of Kutch (Gujarati: કચ્છનું મોટું રણ Sindhi: رڻ ڪڇ) is a salt marsh located in the western tip of Gujarat (primarily the Kutch district),India. It is divided into two main parts; Great Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch.It is located in the Thar Desert bio-geographic area in the Indian state of Gujarat. The area is also spread across the Sind province in Pakistan. This is actually a seasonally marshy region and the word `Rann` means `salt marsh`. Kutch is the name of the district in Gujarat where this region is situated. The marsh covers a huge area of around 10,000 square miles and is positioned between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of the Indus River in southern Pakistan. To the northeast corner of the Rann of Kutch lies Luni River, originating in Rajasthan. The fact that the area has desert on one side and the sea on the other makes the Rann of Kutch an interesting region. . The climatic and geo-morphological expansion of the grassland and deserts of the Rann of Kutch has formed 
 

War history

In June 1965, prior to the outbreak of the 1965 India-Pakistan War, India and Pakistan had a border skirmish in the Rann of Kutch region near the south-eastern coastline of Pakistan. The PAF was tasked with providing point-defence to the Rann of Kutch region to prevent the Indian Air Force (IAF) from entering Pakistani airspace and attacking Pakistan Army positions. On 24 June 1965, an IAF Ouragan fighter (Serial No. IC 698), flown by Flt. Lt. Rana Lal Chand Sikka of No. 51 Auxiliary Squadron from the IAF’s Jamnagar Air Station entered Pakistani airspace. A PAF F-104A Starfighter from No. 9 Squadron intercepted the IAF fighter near Badin in Sindh, Pakistan. Just as the PAF pilot locked on to the Indian fighter and was about to release his AIM-9B Sidewinder Air-to-Air Missile (AAM), the Indian pilot lowered his aircraft’s landing gear (an internationally-recognized sign of aerial surrender). The IAF pilot landed at an open field near Jangshahi village near Badin. The IAF pilot was taken prisoner and released on 14 August 1965- as a goodwill gesture on the 18th Anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence Day. The IAF Ouragan fighter was retained by the PAF as a trophy and flown by a PAF pilot to an airbase in Karachi. (NOTE: This event is not to be confused with the surrender of an IAF Gnat on 4 September 1965 during the 1965 India-Pakistan War, which is on display at the PAF Museum Karachi)

The Rann of Kutch, also known as the Great Rann of Kutch (there’s a Little Rann of Kutch as well), is a remarkable place to visit in Gujarat. It’s the world’s largest salt desert, measuring over 16,000 square kilometers. What makes it even more amazing is that it’s underwater during the main monsoon season in India. For the remaining eight months of the year, it’s an enormous stretch of packed white salt. Here’s all the information you need to visit it.

Rann of Kutch Location

The vast expanse that is the Rann of Kutch borders the top of the Kutch district. It’s best approached from Dhordo, approximately 86 kilometers from Bhuj, which is being developed by the Gujarat government as the Gateway to the Rann of Kutch. Dhordo is on the edge of the Rann of Kutch. It’s a good idea to stay there, or nearby Hodka, to conveniently make the trip.

Rann of Kutch Accommodation Options

The most popular choice is the Gateway to Rann Resort at Dhordo. It’s made up of characterful Kutchi Bhungas (mud huts), traditionally crafted and decorated with handicrafts. Expect to pay around 3,500 rupees for an air conditioned double, per night with meals included.

Another recommended option is the Shaam-e-Sarhad (Sunset at the Border) Village Resort in Hodka. Hodka is one of the top rural tourism destinations in India, and the resort is owned and managed by the local residents. You can choose to stay in tents (3,200 rupees per night for a double) or traditional Bhungas (4,800 rupees per night for a double), and both have attached bathrooms and running water. Visits to local artists villages are a highlight.

Best Time to Visit the Rann of Kutch

The Rann of Kutch begins to dry up in October every year, steadily transforming into the desolate and surreal salt desert. The tourist season runs until March.

It’s best to head out into the Rann of Kutch only in the early morning or evening, otherwise the salt can be blinding. The full moon is the best time of month to see it, and cultural programs are usually held at Dhordo then. A moonlight Rann camel safari is magical.

For a real cultural extravaganza, visit during the month-long Rann Ustav, which usually begins in mid-late December. The government sets up hundreds of luxury tents on the edge of the Rann of Kutch for visitors.

Permits for Visiting the Rann of Kutch

The Rann of Kutch is quite a sensitive area, due to its proximity to the Pakistani border. Therefore, written permission is required to visit it. This is obtainable from the Gujarat Police DSP office in Bhuj near Jubilee Ground (it’s closed Sundays, and every second and fourth Saturday).

Reaching the Rann of Kutch

The resorts mentioned above will arrange transport for you from Bhuj. There are a couple of ways of getting to Bhuj.

  • If taking a train, it’s most convenient from Mumbai (15 hours).
  • Flights to Bhuj are also available from Mumbai.
  • Buses to Bhuj are available from many places in and around Gujarat, and the road is in good condition.

Other Ways to See the Rann of Kutch

If you want to see the Rann of Kutch from a different perspective, the Kalo Dungar (Black Hill) offers a panoramic view from 462 meters above sea level. You can see all the way across to the Pakistani border. Kalo Dungar is accessible via the rather uninteresting village of Khavda, which is 25 kilometers away, and around 70 kilometers from Bhuj. It’s best to take your own transport as public transport is infrequent. The old Lakhpat Fort (140 kilometers from Bhuj) also provides a fabulous view of the Rann of Kutch.

 

Historical Palace

Aina Mahal

The Aina Mahal palace, or “Hall of Mirrors” was built during the flamboyant rule of Lakhpatji in the middle of the 18th century. Master

craftsman Ramsinh Malam, who trained as an artisan for 17 years in Europe, felt unappreciated by lesser rulers in the area, so he went to the royal court at Bhuj and appealed to the king for work, who commissioned this palace. Malam designed it in a mixed Indo-European style and set about creating the materials for the palace locally. He established a glass factory at Mandvi, forged cannons in an iron foundry and manufactured china tiles in a factory in Bhuj. It seems Gandhiji’s ideal of swadeshi had an early proponent in Ramsinh Malam. He personally crafted the fountains, mirrors and glasswork, as well as many other wonders of artisanship—a pendulum clock in sync with the Hindu calendar, doors inlaid with gold and ivory… come visit to find out the rest.The Aina Mahal is at the northeast corner of Hamirsar lake, easily walkable from most of Bhuj. Anyone along the way will give you directions. Be sure to explore the rest of the compound outside the palace, with its beautiful carved doorways, elaborate window boxes and balconies. Most of the compound is in ruins, some brought down as recently as the 2001 earthquake. Poke around and explore unexpected places; don’t settle for just walking into the palace museum with a ready-made experience.

Swaminarayan Temple

Like most Swaminarayan temples, this one has the typical brightly colored woodcarvings around the building, mostly depicting Lord Krishna and Radha. Located just down the road from the Ramkund Stepwell and the Alfred High school, the temple marks the spot where Swaminarayan sat with local holy men when he came through Bhuj.

Please visit for more details: http://www.bhujmandir.org

Wild Life

Black Buck-Antelope Cervicapra (Linnaeus) (Kaliar)

This variety of deer is to be seen occasionally on alluvial sands along the shores of the Gulf of Kutch, while the Common Red Antelope-Gaz:ella henetUi ( Chinkara ) is found in the same places in much larger numbers. A fine male antelope of the Indian plains has long spiral horns. The older animal becomes deep black on the upper parts, in strong contrast with its white throat, belly and legs. Sought after by sportsmen and some of the villagers, its number which was once a justifiable pride of Kutch, has sadly diminished today. Bucks were plentiful on the low lying saline flats of Banni which provide grazing for the cattle raised in this area. Bucks need to be carefully husbanded so that their number can once again be an attraction to the tourists. Black bucks can run very fast and escape enemy by swift running.

Fox-Vulpes bengalensis ( Shaw ) ( Lonkadi )

Three varieties found in Kutch are (i) common grey Indian fox ; (ii) white with black belly and legs, and (iii) large English-like fox of a light brown colour with a white point to his brush. Known as lonkadi it is quite active. This animal is normally found in burrows in fields and open lands. In Kutch it is common in the shrubby open lands but not in the desert. It lives on frogs, reptiles, birds, insects, etc., also feeds on fallen fruits and berries and is a menace to melon plantations. These animals have notable speed which helps them in their defence against other animals.

The Indian hare-Lepus nigricollis (Guvier) (Saslo)

The Indian hare is an animal of open fields and plains. It prefers busy tracts alternating with cultivation. It is usually nocturnal in habit. By day, it lies up in a scooped out hollow or ‘ form ‘ made in the patch of grass. In this respect, it differs i from the true rabbit which lives in a burrow and does not occur in India. This animal’ is a great menace to cultivation. Reduced by snaring and shooting, I the greatest cause for the decline in its population has been the destruction j of plant cover, which is still untouched in the southern fringes of the Banni..


Hyaena-Hyaena hyaena ( Linnaeus ) ( Taras )
The striped hyaena though not much of a common wild animal of Kutch, one does come across it in the shrubby semi-desert areas.

Jackal-Canis aureus ( Linnaeus ) ( Shial )

The adaptable jackal is common everywhere. The long-drawn eerie howling of this ubiquitous canine is a very familiar nocturnal sound heard in the countryside. It mostly feeds on carrion and is a useful scavenger. Occasionally, it lifts poultry and young ones of goats and sheep. It also raids sugar-cane fields and melon patches in season.

Panther-Panthera Pardus (Linnaeus) (Dipdo)

This species used to be fairly common but of late its numbers have dwindled considerably. Unlike the tiger which prefers heavy cover, the panther is able to live and thrive almost anywhere. In Kutch they have good and plentiful cover among the rocky hills, and except after killing a cow or goat, are difficult to trace. Its natural prey includes deer, monkeys, porcupines, etc. A panther living near human habitation preys mainly on domestic animals or even poultry and is particularly fond of lifting dogs. It invariably seizes its victim by the threat and kills it by strangulation. The Indian leopard Panthera pardus which was quite numerous but is now not so common in the various “rakhals” on the Kutch mainland.

Indian Wolf-Canis lupus ( Linnaeus ) ( Varu )

Normally wolves are found in forests but they are known to inhabit desert and shrubby lands also. Generally they prey upon stray animals in open uninhabited areas but when driven by hunger, they even kill children and become a menace to human life.

Wild Boar-Sus Scrofa ( Linnaeus ) ( Dukkar )

Wild boars were plentiful in the past and even today they are quite apparent on the Kala Dungar in Pachham, but elsewhere they are not as numerous as might be expected. This highly prolific species is very destructive to crops. It commonly grubs for underground roots and tubers but is omnivorous and also feeds on insects, snakes and carrion.

Handicraft

Bandhani-tie and dye is the most important traditional handiwork of Kutchi people. Bandhanis are very closely associated with deep rooted social customs. It is treated as a symbol of married life. It is a must in the marriages of Hindus and Muslims. Discovery of dyed cotton fabric dating back to the Indus valley civilization shows that the art of dyeing using penetrating was well known to the dyers about 5000 years ago. Tie-dye still continues to have an important position in Gujarat.

Bandhani tie and dye is found in some forms in almost all parts of the world. ‘Bandhani’ is also called as ‘Bandhej’ came originally from the word ‘Bandhana’ (to tie). Today, most of the Bandhani produced in India is made in Kutch, Saurastra and in other neighbouring districts.

Production Process

The process of tie-dye is relatively simple, but it is very difficult and time consuming. The material to be used is folded more than a few times until reduced to a square or rectangular piece. It is spread on wooden table and desired designs are marked on it with a wooden block (An even nail block) using ‘Gheru’ (Red oxide) mixed with water. Then, it is taken off the table given to a Bandhani craftsperson, who purposely allows the thumb and the finger nail to grow long so as to use them as a pair of tongs for trying the marked portions into tiny knots. The decorative designs indicated by the block are sized and skillfully tied with thread thus retaining the original colour of the material in that portion. Then, it is dyed in a light colour generally yellow. The area requiring yellow is once again tied and later dyed in red or another required dark colour. Thus, the different colours required are introduced into the materials. After the process of tying and dyeing, the cloth is washed with soft water to remove the colour impurities. Then, to remove the colour knots, the process of hitching is done. Two ends of the cloth material are caught by two persons. It is a little hitched in the open air or in the sunlight so that the knots are automatically removed and the tied parts are free. The traditional motifs used are like Sikar, Kori, Badam, Champakali, Kharek etc. Bandhani is used in main products like sarees, Punjabi dresses, cloth, skirts and shawls etc. Tie-dye Odhanis are produced in cotton, silk and georgette. Mandvi, Bhuj, Khavda, Dhamanka, Tera, Bara and Anjar are main centres of tie-dye. According to the survey of tie-dyeing held in 1961, the completion of a piece of the ‘Bandhani’ takes almost eight hours. Red knots can also be removed or lightened or even eliminated by submerging the cloth in a solution of caustic soda and sodium hydrosulphite.

The finished piece is then washed and decent. Bandhani textiles are regularly sold still tied up so that the customer can be sure that it is not a printed artificial and perhaps also so that the customer can have pleasure of seeing the pattern exposed when the cloth which appears to be all in one colour after its final dyeing is pulled separately from its folds and the binding cotton falls away from the plane. While Chunari with a design made up of small dots is possibly the most attribute type of Indian tie dye material, the banded or zig zag ‘Laharia’ is also extensively seen in Kutch today. The method is equally one of enfold oppose but in this case the whole cloth is rotated up and tied at intervals to shape stripes. Only tremendous cloth, usually thin cotton of ‘malmal’ (Kutchi word) can be used for this process as the dye must go through the whole tightly rolled material. The cloth is rolled crossways from one corner to form a striped pattern or folded like a fan, usually in four to create a zigzag as in ‘Chunari’ dyeing, consecutive tied and engagement in dye baths produce a succession of colours. If the cloth is untied and re-rolled from the opposite diagonal, a checked effect results called ‘Mothara’.

The dyes of all types of Bandhani work used today are always artificial. The widespread dyes were originally thought from the ancestry of Morinda Cordifolia, in combination with an double sulphate of Aluminium and Potassium caustic for the fast (Pakka) red, Kasum from the petals of sunflowers, Carthamus Tintorius for Kutch red, Haldi from the tuber of Curcuma Domestica with Chhach for yellow and Gali, Indigo from the leaves of Indigofera Tintria for blue. Their financial records of sloping sharply with the cloths of difference of several days and strong with the simple summary are required for chemical dyes to create the result. The difficult work of collecting the dye plants and obtaining their dyes are not referenced by either of 19th Century writers but it is hardly surprising that current dyers enthusiastically took up the opportunely tinned colours that took their place.

Bandhani is done with cotton, gajji silk, fur, muslin etc. in Gujarat. The smooth weave known as gajji which was used for more costly Bandhani textiles up to the early 20th Century gives richness to the delicately worked designs which are distinctive of Gujarati tie and dye skills.

Although the impressive silk sarees and odhanis decorated with peacocks, flowers, dances or a ‘Rasamandala, designs used as cheerful dress. The high-quality kind of bandhani in Gujarat is most recurrently made not of silk but of cotton. It is popular as ‘Gharcholu’, the traditional wedding ‘Odhani’ of the Hindus bride now also legally taken by Jain women and even worn as sarees by guests at weddings. The fine cotton is divided into separated by the partitions by natural fiber stripes of gold brocade, the gold checkered fabric being made in Porbandar, although it was formerly imported from Varanasi. The most important ‘gharcholu’ design are called ‘Bar Bhag’ (12 sections) of ‘Bavan Bhag’ (52 sections) controlling on the number of decorative designs and squares. To save cost, the designs may be tie-dyed into a plain red cotton cloth without the gold rich fabric woven. The buyers having enough money for the zari chowk Saree is more attractive. Another negotiation can be achieved by stitching gold ribbon in strips on the tie dyed Sari, yet another step down the steps of traditional methods is taken when the design itself is roller printed.

The ‘Gharcholu’ designs are given to a girl by her husband at the time of their wedding. She usually arranges it over her head. It is exclusively covered during the ceremony, while she wears under the traditional white silk saree called ‘Panetar’ with a red border.

According to the survey, more complicated designs in Bandhanis are finished in villages of Kutch. Many of them are sent to Jamnagar for dyeing and advertising. As stated in the survey of 1961, there were about 4000 people functioning in the tie-dye industry in Kutch mostly in Bhuj and Anjar. The leading persons in Kutch are ‘Khatris’ who have expended a effective monopoly on textile production since middle aged times. It is said that the Khatris have been came from Sind.

The tie-dyed silk fabrics worn by the Khatri Muslims are completely different from the Hindus. The Hindus and the Muslims country communities normally make extensive use of Bandhani textiles, both as ‘Chunaris’ and ‘skirts’. Their fairly basic linear designs are originally from Sind. The waterless areas of Northen Kutch and Banni are just like deserts and many communities describe their origins to Sind. Complex embroidered patterns are often added over the basic tie dye fabric and a practice is also seen in more difficult level both in designs and techniques among the Khatri Muslims.