Who doesn’t fancy a beautiful tent on the magical white sand desert with the perfect pleasant weather! And how about a spell bounding sunset or a glowing full moon in the background? And some camels to go with? Is this too much to ask? Does this sound too dreamy, to be true? Am I talking about a perfect staged scene from one of the Disney movies?
Well, No! I am talking about the Rann Utsav – the Kutch desert festival.
Rann Utsav is a desert festival celebrated in Kutch, Gujarat – a carnival of dance, music, food and nature. The festival is about experiencing and celebrating the beauty of the White Rann under the full moon. It is a 3 month long festival celebrated every year during winters.
Last year (2015) in December, my friend ‘Akshata’ and I decided to tour around in the state of Gujarat for 10 days (I will share the itinerary in another post (soon!)). And definitely we couldn’t have missed the famous desert festival. After some planning, discussions and negotiations, we booked the Rann Utsav for 2 nights and 3 days. The booking was pretty easy. We made the online booking through – www.rannutsav.com. The package that we had booked ensured that everything was organised and taken care by Rann Utsav organisers.
We arrived at the Bhuj railway station in the morning. Bhuj is a city in the state of Gujarat in India. We were driven to Tent City – Dhordo by one of the drivers of Rann Utsav. Dhordo is approximately 80 kilometres from Bhuj, it is being developed by the Gujarat government as the Gateway to the Rann. Dhordo is on the edge of the salt desert.
The Tent City – Dhordo was truly a city in itself. It was beautifully decorated – rich, in fact very rich in culture. The interiors of the city and the tents were of the traditional cloth patch works and paintings. The city had everything – ATMs, Handicraft shops, Eat outs and Tuk tuks.
In the evening, we were driven from Dhordo to western side of White Rann. The Great Rann of Kutch or the White Rann is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar desert.
Akshata and I managed to take a camel ride just before the sunset, which was super fun.
After experimenting with our cameras, we decided to sit down on the salt desert to watch the sunset. The sunset lived up to the expectations and it was mind-blowing.
And I took a picture of the moon.
We started our day with the para motoring. Para motor is a generic name for the propulsive portion of a powered paraglider (“PPG”). It consists of a frame that combines the motor, propeller, harness (with integrated seat) and cage. The para motor was so much exciting and the views of the tent city from up above were picturesque.
In the evening, we visited the Kala Dungar (Black Hill), which is the highest point in Kutch.
The Kalo Dungar is famous for a 400-year-old Dattatreya temple. The temple is associated to some popular legends. One legend says that when Lord Dattatreya walked on Earth, he stopped at the Black Hills and found a pack of starving jackals. Being a god, he offered them his body to eat and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. Because of this, for the last four centuries, the priest at the temple has prepared prasad (food that is religious offering) – cooked rice that is fed to the jackals after the evening aarti (ritual of worship). Another, legend has it that there was once a holy man named Lakkh Guru residing at Kala Dungar and worshiping the Lord Dattatreya. He used to feed wild jackals. There came a day when he found he had no food, so cutting-off a part of his body he offered it to the jackals, saying, “Le ang!’ (Take body part).
The Kalo Dungar is also the place which provides a panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch. And again the sunset from here was enormous. I captured some great shots of the sunset and the moon.
After sunset, we visited the stage where the cultural programs by the local artists were being performed. It was the time to sit and relax, and enjoy the culture of Gujarat. There was also star gazing at the back of the stage. There was a telescope that was set up and all of us were given a chance to view the stars and the planets. It was perfect for people like me who love everything about the stars.
Since this was our last day at Dhordo, we decided to go watch the sunrise. The sunrise was equally beautiful and outstanding.
After the sunrise, it was time for us to depart. Before being dropped to the railway station, we visited the Sri Swami Narayan Temple. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a Hindu temple in Bhuj.
The last stop was at the handicraft village Bhujodi. Bhujodi is a major textile centre of Kutch.
Food at Rann Utsav:
Everything about Rann Utsav was awesome, especially the food. The food was the authentic Gujarati food. The farsans (collective term for the Gujarati snacks) and the local freshly prepared food was stupendous and mouth-watering. Honestly, I am very choosy when it comes to food but at Rann Utsav, I enjoyed every bit of the food. I would definitely rate it a 100 on 10 for sure. It was that remarkable and astounding!