Rann Utsav (Kutch desert festival) in Gujarat
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, also known as the Kutch desert festival. In the year 2015 during the month of December, my friend Akshata and I decided to tour around in the state of Gujarat for 10 days. And definitely we couldn’t have missed the famous desert festival.
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About the 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.
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 the official website of Rann Utsav. The package that we had booked ensured that everything was organised and taken care of by Rann Utsav organisers.
Itinerary (Rann Utsav)
The itinerary was planned by the Rann Utsav organisers. However, one can call the organisers during bookings and have a bit of changes to the planned itinerary if they wish to.
On day 1, we arrived at the Bhuj railway station in the morning. Bhuj is a city in the state of Gujarat in India and this is where one is picked up to be transferred to the Tent City.
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. The artificial Tent city of Dhordo is on the edge of the salt desert.
The Tent City, Dhordo is truly a city in itself with beautifully decorated and rich, in fact very rich in culture. The interiors of the city and the tents were of the traditional cloth patchworks and paintings. The city had everything from ATMs, Handicraft shops, Eat outs, and the Tuk-tuks.
In the evening, we were driven from Dhordo to the 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. I would not recommend this as I do not feel good now about riding the animals anymore. It is unethical and I do not support it.
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.
I also took a picture of the moon, which looked extremely big and pretty.
We started our day with the paramotoring. Paramotor 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 paramotor was so much fun 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.
Legends of Kalo Dungar
The temple is associated with 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 in Tent City where the cultural programs by the local artists were being performed. It was 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!
Is it safe for solo female travelers?
Yes, it is definitely safe for the solo female travelers. The entire festival and the events are so well planned and organised. The staff are very friendly and take utmost care of the guests.
If given a chance, I would visit the Rann of Kutch every single year. I loved it that much. Everything was beautiful and I cannot recommend visiting this Kutch festival to experience the Gujrati culture. It was amazing. I definitely say that you need to visit this festival at least once.