Crisscrossing Rann of Kutch and Rajasthan – Exploring Kutch

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A Kutchi woman in traditional attire - Hodka - Rann of Kutch
A Kutchi woman in traditional attire - Hodka - Rann of Kutch

Crisscrossing Rann of Kutch and Rajasthan – Exploring Kutch  

Next day, we got up late around 6.30 a.m. After freshening up when we came out, it was very cold and Khimji's father had already started the fire. We had met him at Rann Utsav yesterday, as he had his stall at Rann Utsav. We sat on the cots around the fire chatting with him about the life in Kutch over tea. The voltage here was less so the gyser was not able to heat the water. The hot water was supplied in buckets from the kitchen and soon we were ready.

The Hodka Village - Rann of Kutch
The Hodka Village - Rann of Kutch

Womenfolk creating handicrafts
Womenfolk creating handicrafts


A young girl in traditional attire
A young girl in traditional attire

Young girls share a light moment while working
Young girls share a light moment while working


We accompanied Khima's father to the village and meet the artisan families and see them creating beautiful handicrafts. This was a treat to the eyes. After this small visit, we came back to the resort and had breakfast. Now it was time to say goodbye. Khimji had left for Rann Utsav. We thanked his father for their wonderful hospitality and left for our next destination. Today we had planned to visit Kalo Dungar, India Bridge, war memorial and go up to Kanjarkot, which is on Indo Pak Border.


Kalo Dungar


Our first destination for the day was Kalo Dungar. Kalo Dungar meaning black hill is the highest point in Rann of Kutch and is at a height of 462 meters. It offers 360-degree views of the Kutch. It is also famous for a highly revered Dattatreya temple which is 400 years old. Lord Dattatreya is considered as an incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. As per the legend, when Dattatreya came on earth, he stopped at Kalo Dungar to rest. In the jungle, there were hungry wild jackals. Lord did not have anything to feed these Jackals. Feeling his Godly responsibility to feed all the living being on earth, he started to offer his body parts to the hungry Jackals. As he kept on feeding the Jackals, his limbs kept on regenerating. Even today the tradition of feeding Jackals is followed. The priest prepares the vegetarian prasad consisting of Rice, dal and Jaggery and offers it to the Jackals every afternoon. It is strange to see the jackals turning up for prasad when priest calls them and these carnivorous animals eating vegetarian food.

The platform at Dattatreya temple, Kalo Dungar , where Jackals are Fed
The platform near Dattatreya temple, Kalo Dungar , where Jackals are fed

An attendant carrying Prasad to feed the Jackals
An attendant carrying Prasad to feed the Jackals

The priest calling the Jackals
The priest calling the Jackals


Jackals feeding
Jackals feeding


Kalo Dungar is 50 kilometres from Hodka, where we were staying. The roads were good and as soon as I hit the accelerator, the mile munching started. We followed the same route till Bhirandiara and after we hit NH45. After some time, we branched off to a road leading to Kalo Dungar. The road leads through Kutch village and then the ascent started. The hills around were dark in colour true to their name and lacked vegetation. A small parking lot has been made near the Temple. After parking the vehicle we started uphill. It was about time for the famous Jackal feeding near Dattatreya temple. As we were there, we also joined a small crowd that had gathered to watch this ritual. We did not have to wait for much when we saw a priest and his helpers walking towards the feeding platform carrying the prasad. They emptied the vessels on the platform, banged the thali with the spoon to called the Jackals. The Jackals responded to the call and appeared a little after the priest had left,  and started feasting on the prasad. We left the Jackals having the prasad and to ascend to the mountain top.

Kalo Dugar, The highest point in Rann of Kutch
Kalo Dugar, The highest point in Rann of Kutch

Kalo Dungar
Kalo Dungar

A local musician at Kalo Dungar
A local musician at Kalo Dungar

Kalo Dungar and the distant Rann of Kutch
Kalo Dungar and the distant Rann of Kutch


The mountain top presented a scene of a popular picnic spot and was too crowded for my palate. It had all the touristy things. A lot of street vendors selling everything from Nariyal paani to fast food and vendors offering traditional Kutchi clothes and tourists were getting themselves photographed in them. After spending some time there, and some snacking, we started back.

While returning, we staopped briefly at a point called Magnetic hill. This point is named so because when one parks the car in neutral, the car starts moving uphill on its own. This actually is an illusion. The same phenomenon is observed in Ladakh region near Leh and is very famous. We also experienced this. In no time, we were on the highway again and the traffic was minuscule. With smooth road and negligible traffic and rustic but beautiful landscape, it was a pleasure to drive upon.

Soon the landscape changed and we saw a beautifully white Rann. This was the white Rann we had seen in pictures and had missed at Dhordo. It was a sight to behold. Just ahead of us was a bridge and a BSF Sentry was posted there. We asked him if we can click pictures, to which he said yes. We crossed the bridge to find ourselves in a parking area. Then we realised that we had already reached the India Bridge. After parking the vehicle, we moved across to a desk set up by BSF personnel who were checking IDs and noting the details of the vehicles.

When we told them that we are planning to go to Kanjarkot, this is when they dropped a bomb on us by telling that we need a permit for that, which is issued by BSF HQ at Bhuj. He said that a permit is required to move beyond this point. He can maximum allow us upto the war memorial 12 kilometres ahead. After which there is another checkpoint and the area is manned by a different battalion. This was a surprise for us as in Punjab one can walk to any border be it Wagha or Hussainiwala and no permit is required and I had missed this point. We had to submit all the cameras, mobile phones at the post. So there will be no picture of the area beyond this.

Due to rare traffic, we were at war memorial in 15 minutes. War memorial is a memorial built in the memory of Indian soldiers, who laid down their lives in 1965 Indo Pak war. This war memorial took 48 years to complete not because it is built ornately, but just due to the redtapism in the government sector and was inaugurated a few years back. This is a very plain lacklustre memorial. Here we met a Punjabi customs officer, who was taking his guests around in the Rann-of-kutch area. He had visited Kanjarkot and told us that there is nothing to see at Kanjarkot and what is left of Kanjarkot Fort is a few boulders. A bit of solace. With a heavy heart and the frustration of missing Kanjarkot, we made a dash back to Bhuj. The road between the India bridge and War memorial passes through the white desert on both the sides. We saw a few distant animals. We parked the car on the roadside. Me and Sarthak walked down to the Rann. We wanted to see if this heard was that of wild ass a species on the verge of extintion and is found only in the Rann of Kutch area. They were quite far and as we walked toward them, they ran further away and we could not make out if they were wild asses or Neel Gai.

We collected our cameras, made the exit entry in BSF register and headed towards Bhuj. We were quite early and so we moved towards Bhujodi a handicrafts village. Weavers at this places weave beautiful shawls and stoles. After spending some time here and some shopping, we reached Aaina Mahal in time to have a look at it.

Aaina Mahal was built by Rao Lakhpatji and the chief architect was Ram Singh Malam. Ram Singh Malam was rescued by a ship near west coast and he rode that ship to Holland. He learned the art of foundry and mirror making there. Due to the Indians being treated as second grade citizens in Holland, he returned to India and met Rao Lakhpat ji the King of Bhuj. Rao Lakhpat ji was a man of taste and had visited Mughal palaces at Delhi. He hired Ram Singh to build this palace. Ram Singh created everything indigeneously with the help of Kutchi artisans. He set up factories to create the tiles, mirrors and other materials to indigenously produce everything required for Aaina Mahal.

Aaina Mahal has a very unimpressive entry, but as one enters, one realises that though it is in a battered state now, it must have been one of the grandest edifices of its time. The Place is aptly named Aaina Mahal as it extensively uses mirrors on the walls inlaid in gold plated wooden frames. But most of the mirrors have lost their sheen. The most prominent are Fuvarna mahal and Hira Mahal.

Fuvarna Mahal must have a entertainment room, and has a marble throne in the centre. Musical instruments are arranged all around very beautifully. Lakhpat ji was himself a connoisseur of art and organised musical baithaks here. The walls told the story of past glory and so did the doors with gold platings and ivory interspersed with glass and mirrors.

Heera Mahal was the private bed chamber of Lakhpat ji. This is the most ornate room in the palace. Though the mirrorwork and the gold plating have lost their sheen, they still sing an ode about the extravagance of the older days. It is said that Lakhpat ji used to auction his bed every year.

The walls of corridors around these palaces had some very interesting artefacts. Some original “Farmans” ( royal decree ) received by the kings of Kutch from Mughal Kings and their Translation. Some reverse glass paintings out of which, the most prominent was the painting of Mastani the second wife of Peshwa baji Rao. It was also interesting to read about the Jadeja lineage, wherein all the rulers were described along with their traits.

Dabeli - most popular street food of the region
Dabeli - The most popular street food of the region

A street vendor making Dabeli
A street vendor making Dabeli

More street food
More street food

Some local chaat
Some local chaat


It was about the closing time when we left the Aaina Mahal. It was now time to check into the Hotel. It was right in the centre of the city and had a lot of street food joints around. So we spent time relishing the famous snack of Bhuj, Dabeli, Ice gola and a lot of other things.

Continued.............



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