March 25, 2015

Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahin dekha!

As we drive towards the Great Rann of Kutch, we see miles and miles of flat land, light brown, with either no plants or with a few acacia plants. 

The colours are essentially brown, dull green and the grey of the road, interrupted by mirages. 

Sitting here at the edge of the Rann, I am amazed at yet another wonder of nature. Vast and blazing white, it gives me an other-planetary feeling. The ground is hard salt. Waves and waves of it. I tasted it out of curiosity and yes, it is salt alright! 

We walk about just for the experience. Ragini and I could be the only two people in the whole world!

It is only when tourists come that there is noise. Otherwise it is as quiet as quiet itself. 
Surely at the other end, one will just drop off the earth? To think that this extends up to Pakistan! 7000 sq km odd. 

I need to find out why and how the Rann happened. 

Absorbed in our thoughts, we wait for the sunset... 

The ground is tough and hard salt. I looked around for a twig so I could dig and
see what's beneath! But there is nothing there.
A walk or a camel cart takes people on the 1.5 km road that marks the end of colour.
After that it is just a white stretch.
Sunset and full moon rise are what tourists wait to see.
The land is so flat that the sun seems to suddenly dip, and disappears.
Kutch is not like any other place I have seen before. It is vast - bigger than the state of Kerala and a little smaller than the state of Punjab. Yet, Kutch is only a district in Gujarat. We were told that they could not ask for statehood because of the low population. 

We saw only two major crops on our many drives from one village to another the three days we were there - cotton and castor. There were mango orchards that grow the kesar variety of mango. Flat open stretches of nothingness, sometimes dotted with acacia bushes. The land is extremely dry. It does not rain much, the villages are far from one another, and there is no such thing as outskirts with industries and engineering colleges as we see in other places. 

On our drive from Devpur to Mandvi, a seaside town, we suddenly came upon two huge herds of camels! And they were eating thorny acacias. Camel milk is in demand, said our driver Satu Bha. Camel tail braids are in fashion, said Ragini! 
And I wanted to bring back this cute little 5-day old.
Among the other fauna we saw were painted flamingoes, pelicans and cranes.
The flamingoes were lovely, but seemed shy and kept moving away if we went closer for a better shot. 
This was at Mandvi which is also known for its ship building yard. These ships are build by hand, and are apparently bought by Arab merchants.   


I simply loved the sight and sound of migratory cranes that fly home noisily at dusk, 
making interesting patterns in the sky, making the city dweller think it is smoke!
(Please view full size) 
Mandvi also has the Vijay Vilas Palace, which to me seemed like a smaller version of the Baroda palace that I visited some years back. I liked the acres of greenery all around it. Very unlike the normal landscape of those parts. 
Here you see one of the terraces with finely carved arches.


This palace has the typical Kutchi architecture, but lies in ruins. Perhaps after the 2001 earthquake.  This is opposite the Prag Mahal palace in Bhuj, which strangely, has Italian architecture, and you momentarily wonder if you are in Europe! 
As much as Kutch is not about colour, it is also about the brightest hues created by the artists who are there in every village. This is an intricate tie and dye from Bhadali. 
We also saw, for the first time, a tie and die called Shibori and 
another made using a process called Clamp dye.

 

A craftsman doing Ajrakh (block printing)
Kutch is also about skilled and beautiful tribal women.
If only they knew how special they were!
A rude but very real reminder of the 2001 earthquake. 
There were hundreds of sparrows everywhere we went (= happiness!). This family lived opposite the room we stayed in and kept flying in and out of our room, much to my delight, reminding me of my childhood! 
And finally, the haveli we stayed in - a home stay run by the gracious Jadeja royal family,
who also run The White Eagles School in their compound. 
What's more, one can also volunteer to work there on short term assignments.
A dream begins there...!

Kutch is also Lagaan land, and we could recognise the landscape and the palace scenes we saw in the movie! There were also many temples on hills with stairs leading up to them. On one drive we also saw three teams seriously playing cricket in blazing hot sun...after all, it is World Cup time!  

We spent just three days in Kutch and I now know how much more there is to see and experience. Somehow Kutch escaped all 'development' as defined by the 21st century, yet, or maybe because of this, there are plenty of friendly smiles, calm, acceptance and resilience.  

*All photos copyright Sadhana Ramchander

4 comments:

sameers said...

Incredible pics, as always!

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Thank you, Sameer!

nagasrinivasa said...

Thanks for the wonderful pictures .
Definietly a " must see" place.

Haritha Avula said...

Looks like you had a wonderful trip sadhana. Lovely photos!