A year in Kutch is unthinkable with the mind conjuring the arid landscape. But there’s more to Kutch than meets the eye and what the tourism says. I will take you to the land of my forefathers (from my maternal side) and you will be wanting to get all of it if you think beyond the heat of the summers.
Summers in Kutch:
Summers are a languishing delight in Kutch with benefits of gorging on Kesar mangoes from its various organic farms. Not many people know that Kutch is almost becoming a frontrunner in the production of Kesar variety of mangoes since the land of Kutch is seen as favourable for its cultivation. So stay indoors during the day and dig into the luscious amber colored mangoes. A soulful treat. Sometimes the electricity goes off in afternoons and that’s when the cooing of the cuckoos renders the air with sweet notes. Get a hand fan and chill with the background music. However, evenings in Kutch are pleasant given the desert climate there. So you can go and stroll in the local parks and gardens or visit that local sweet shop, Khavda (famous in the Kutch region) and get for yourself some Kutch Gulab Pak. It is a sweet made from real roses and it is sinfully delicious! (Khavda Sweet Shop: http://www.khavda.com/)
Monsoons in Kutch:
Monsoons in Kutch are a delight since the temperature comes down and it is cool. However, Kutch receives cyclonic rains in May/June and around October due to its proximity to the coast. The Gulf of Kutch creates conditions for such heavy rainfall conditions. It is during the monsoons that The Rann of Kutch gets filled with sea water resulting in great salt pans in non-monsoon months. The white desert is a sight during such times while in monsoon it is muddy and wet.
Winters in Kutch:
Winters in Kutch are the best time for tourists. However, I have travelled and lived in Kutch in both summers and winters and I loved it at both times. Indulge in Adadiya Pak (infused with all the essential warm ingredients for winter). It is available at all Khavda Sweet shops around. Put on your warm clothes and go on a visit to Dholavira (an archeological excavation site believed to be of the Harappan period) or The Great Rann of Kutch and be mesmerized with the wild ass and migratory birds.
While tourism has always put the spotlight on the colorful embroidery, the kutch shawls and the white desert, there is more to Kutch than that. Don’t forget to check out these:
Pragmulsinhji’s Palace, Bhuj:
The Palace of Pragmulsinhji is now in abject ruins with numerous palace artifacts lying around unattended. This palace in Bhuj rises pathos of splendour crumbled to dust.
The fort surrounding the palace. Now only this part is standing rest all crumbled due to earthquake and human interference.
Lakhpat Fort was a vantage trading point for the Middle East and Africa and I am sure no one has heard of this fort. The fort has imposing gates protecting this walled ‘city’ – now left in ruins. Its high walls run for 7kms are accompanied by watch towers and a neglected ‘dock’. There is a Gurudwara built on the site where it is believed that Guru Nanak stayed here on his way to Mecca. Generations of one of his attendants who stayed here, are continuing the Gurudwara management. The Gurudwara has his padukas and a few of his belongings. Within the walled city you will find a mosque and a temple. Around 10 kms off from here are Buddhist cells, believed to be the same ones as mentioned by 7th century traveller Hsuan Tsang , as ‘Buddhist cells near the mouth of the Indus’. There is a ‘rest house’ in the fort with a courtyard surrounded by 4 rooms that serves as a common rest house for all travellers. Did you realise that Lakhpat Fort not only encouraged trade but fostered as a meeting ground of all faiths?
Beyond the Lakhpat fort…this is where the scenes of the Refugee movie were captured with Abhishek Bachchan walking down the desert sands.
A few houses within the fort. There is a Gurudwara which is more than 400 year old. Muslim tomb stands testimony to the fact that Lakhpat was a thriving port in its heydays and was open to religious integration.
Tomb in Lakhpat.
Intricate carvings on the tomb at Lakhpat
Noticed our title ‘Kutchdo Baare Maas’ (Kutch all 12 months)? This phrase originated because of this place. Kutch was a thriving place which might be very difficult for us to wrap our heads around. It was open all time of year for trade and it was a thriving port region.
Koteshwar Temple is located on Kori Creek, yet another holy shrine for the Hindus. It was originally cut off from the mainland, until a road was built leading to it. There is an ancient story behind the building of the Koteshwar Temple. It is said that, King Ravana wished to become immortal and maintained penance all day to gratify Lord Shiva. Shiva, pleased with his hardship, granted Ravana his cherished boon by gifting him a lingam of Himself. But, overpowered by arrogance, he dropped the lingam, which on touching the ground, broke into a thousand other lingams. The King could not identify the master lingam and the boon therefore was lost. There were a thousand lingas scattered at that place, so the heavenly saints decided to build a temple at that very spot, naming it Koteshwar in Kutch.
Let not the arid landscape and the desert fool you! What seems like a dry bed of land actually is infinitely rich like this Lignite mine at Prandharo. It also has large deposits of limestone. It is nearly 65 million years old. Fossil marine creatures have been recovered from the site marking it as a place where there was once an ocean and also forest (due to presence of lignite).
Vijay-Vilas Palace at Mandvi is a Bollywood destination for films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Lagaan (English Song). The palace has an orchard and private beach too. The Mandvi Beach (public) is located a few kilometers away from here.
Incoming ship at Kandla Port. See a small ship near the big one? Well that small ship called “Badgers” pulls the big ships towards the port and then pushes them to the respective allocated berths at the port. Can’t believe it? Visit a port to see this interesting thing.
Kandla Port berths and ships in line
The Great Eastern… one of the largest ships ever made (couldn’t even capture the whole ship in one frame)
The White Desert “Dhordo” is called so because of the salt deposits all over the region. The salt procured here is the whitest salt available in India.
A lot of people compare Kutch with Rajasthan. While this place is colorful like Rajasthan, especially the attire, the local touch is more significantly seen here, unlike the adherence to the royalty and flamboyance there. Kutch is steeped into the earthy romance of life in arid terrain and hard life but equally resilient in its outlook.
Go ahead and experience Kutch like never before … no wonder it is called ‘Khushbu Gujarat ki’