11 Top Things to Experience near India’s Largest Salt Desert - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

11 Top Things to Experience near India’s Largest Salt Desert

Colorful handmade toys of Kutch

One of our country’s stunning natural wonders, the Greater Rann of Kutch, is India’s largest salt desert and one of the largest of its kind in the entire world. A holiday to its white world is much sought after, especially during the winter and early spring months and more so during the Rann Utsav festival, which is a world in itself. Not only is there surreal nature to see, but there is a lot of art, culture, handicrafts, food, dance, music and endless shopping to experience in this north western corner of India.

The colorful creations of Kutch as seen at the weaving village of Gandhi nu Gram, Gujarat, India

And with a pretty easily accessible airport in Bhuj and daily flights from Mumbai, you are not too far away from our own Kutch holiday. And if you and when you decide to visit the Greater Rann of Kutch and its gorgeously artistic villages and creative denizens, do plan around a no moon or full moon time to make it that spectacular holiday.

Below are 11 things that you should experience to have that special holiday to Kutch. These are all based on my personal experiences on prior visits to Kutch.

1) Watch Nature’s Pyrotechnics at the White Rann

A winter morning sunrise from the White Rann Salt Desert

The vast expanse of salt and pretty much nothing else to see till the horizon other than salt, the Great Rann of Kutch is quite an experience. To stand barefoot on the salt crystals of the White Rann and to watch the sunrise or sunset here is a humbling experience. If you wish, you can also explore the White Rann while sitting on a camel. If you can brave the cold, I would recommend staying on post the sunset and watch the moonrise and later on a view of a star studded sky. During the full moon, the entire salt desert glows white in the moon light and during no moon, the stars can be seen glittering like never before. Whatever day you choose, the White Rann is definitely one of the top experiences.

2) Bite into a Delicious Dabeli at Bhuj

The man who creates Dabeli, the burger of Kutch

What Vada Pao is to Mumbai, the Dabeli is to Kutch. Popularly referred to as the Kutchi burger, this local street food is your simple bread or pao that is toasted on butter and stuffed with a secret tomato vegetable gravy, sweet sauce, tangy sauce, nuts, pomegranate fruit and spicy peanuts. You can either have this as a snack or as a full meal coz that is how delicious they are. The place to try the best dabelis is Kishan Dabeli and bhel on the main market street. And once you have had your fill of Kutch’s iconic street food, wash it down with a lip smacking glass of chach or butter milk.

3) Be a part of the Festive Atmosphere at the Rann Utsav

Local cop admires the pottery of Kutch showcased at Rann Utsav Tent city

The Rann Utsav is one of the most well orchestrated local events where they seamlessly bring together the art, culture, handicrafts, people and food from the region of Kutch into one vibrant and colorful environment that is located right next to the White Rann salt desert. Perfect for families and couples, right from being put up in luxury tents and ferried along in golf carts, this Rann Utsav tent city run by Gujarat Tourism is packed with lip smacking food, local folk music, endless shopping opportunities, adventure activities, tailored tours to the top sights of the region and so much more.

4) Try your hand at playing the Morchang

Kutch as a region has many unique musical instruments. One of them that is my absolute favorite is the Morchang, a humble instrument that was historically used to call cattle back home from the field. This percussion instrument made from iron is held between your teeth and using your tongue and your inhaling and exhaling of air, you cause the instrument to vibrate and thus produce sound. A trained Morchang player can play a few hundred sounds with this instrument and some of these can be heard as far as 5 kilometers away.

5) Take a ride in a Chakda

The colorful Chakda of Gujarat - Must Experience on a holiday to Kutch

You have to love India for its jugaad mentality and more so Kutch for converting an ancient 500 cc diesel Royal Enfield motorcycle into a colorful public transport option for the desert and its surrounding villages. Designed as a tri-motorcycle with a carriage at the rear, the Chakda is Kutch’s Jugaad invention and that you should definitely experience during your Kutch holiday. Even if you don’t get to ride one, you should at least travel in one.

6) Watch how scrap is turned into musical bells at the Sound Lab of Nirona

Scrap metal turned into amazing bells at Nirona, Kutch

The Hussain family of Nirona turn waste scrap iron into amazing sounding copper bells. I call them the sound lab of Kutch! This family art has been passed down through generations for the last 400 years and it is quite something to see them at work where they are shaping scrap metal, giving it color and finally giving it the desired sound. Their work is so good that technically qualified sound engineers would be proud of their work.

7) Shop for Embroidered Goods at Bhirandiyara Village

Beautiful creations of Bhirandiyara, Kutch

You are never too far away from rich colorful embroidery work in Kutch and what better way to see and buy these amazing goods than right at the source. You can do this at Bhirandiyara village, where the women are masters of embroidery. Their clothes, wall hangings, bags, table cloths, bed spreads, purses and many other items will appeal to all kinds of handicraft shoppers. Made from cotton, wool, silk or leather, these colorful handicrafts not only make for great handicraft memento purchases, but make for fantastic gifts too.

8) Watch the magic of Rogan Art unfold in front of your eyes

The colors and the 400 year old traditional Rogan art painting of Kutch

Only one family in the whole world makes this kind of art. How cool is that? The Khatri family of Nirona village in Kutch have somehow managed to keep this awesome art form alive. Influenced by Persian art and made from castor oil and locally sourced colors, this traditional Rogan art is so special that one of it can be found in the White House when Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted one to then President of the United States, Barack Obama. A visit to the Khatri house in Nirona will not only allow you to see the creative action at close quarters, but you can also buy some of this prized art as a special show case for your living room.

9) Eat a Home Cooked Traditional Kutchi Lunch

A delicious home cooked Gujarati meal at Nirona, Kutch

With its war like names, the foods of Gujarat are definitely popular. Khakhra, Thepla, Dhokla and Fafda are the favorites. Then add street food like Dabeli, Kadak and Bhel to it and you have a certain mouth watering proposition. I think the best taste of Kutch lies in its simple village homes and their cooks. Whatever they prepare, be it Undio, Sev Tamatar, Dal, roti, pulao, Sukhi Bhaji or desserts such as Kansar, Sukhadi, or Shiroo,  everything seems to have such a true local flavor. A must experience according to me and a taste that you will treasure for years to come.

10) Take a Selfie with a Colorfully Dressed Kutchi Family

Selfie with a Kutchi Family

Kutch is so full of vibrant colors that sometimes I feel it should own the title for the most colorful region in the country. Even though the region of Kutch is dry, bleak, harsh and unforgiving, the people of Kutch seem to be colorful, cheerful, creative and a definite treat to the eyes. And with such colorful people, a selfie is mandatory. It would be your colorful Kutchi selfie.

11) Listen to the soothing Kutchi Folk Music

Rawan Hatha Musician from Rann Utsav Tent City, Kutch, Gujarat

With traditional musical instruments such as the Rawan Hatha, Dholak, Morchang, Khartal and Khanjari, the musicians of Kutch create some amazing folk music that is so soothing to the ears. Their music is so popular that Salim and Sulaiman Merchant, the Bollywood music composers have leveraged them in a lot of their music. You can either hear it up close at the Rann Utsav tent city or at any of the village homes or events.

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