People and culture of Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

Most of us always plan holidays to visit exotic hill stations or pristine beaches. The idea of travelling miles into desert expanses of Gujarat taking in dust winds never occurred to us as well until we decided to explore it for a Kalacafe project in Feb 2014.

An exhilarating sojourn in Bhuj was all about meeting Kutch’s nomadic tribes, immersing in Rann’s culture & local’s way of life and catching glimpses of varied vibrant handicrafts in making, live!

To be honest, Kutch can be exhausting for a traveller due to its dry and extreme weather conditions but it leaves one amazed to see how nomadic tribes inhabit these interior pockets of Thar desert despite that. One starts seeing life through a different lens altogether after spending time talking and eating with the local tribes here – the lens of compassion.

In red below are the villages we drove into where most do not.

kutchHaving decided to split the course into two, we first went north of Bhuj halting at Sumrasar-> Kotai-> Hodaka-> Dhordo-> The Great Rann of Kutch-> Kaladungar and then down towards Bhujodi-> Kukma-> Ajrakhpur.

Kutch is known for its nomadic tribes who lead a very simple life; their major occupations being cattle rearing for milk & wool and farming. The women folks who cannot do manly jobs remain inside homes and handcraft artworks like beaded accessories, embroidered textiles and much more. These artifacts contain elements which purely symbolize their rich culture, customs and simplistic lifestyles. You see it in their homes – wall hangings, quilts, wedding couture, skirts & blouses (ghaghra-choli), children’s clothes, on shirts (kurtas) worn by their husbands, scarves… simply anything and everything.

Sharing some moments of humanity captured in rustic backdrops traversing through sun parched highways of Kutch…

Photograph credits to Sunil Tunagaria

“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro

Our driver, Haji bhai, who drove us around Kutchh belonged to an African community (by birth) settled in Gujarat years ago after being brought in here by the kings of Gujarat. His broad physique and appearance may mislead you but he is truly an Indian at heart speaking fluent Gujarati! His terrific knowledge about deserts of Kutch and its people rendered him of great help to us; highly trustworthy and recommended. In fact, when he drove us to and back from Kaladungar late in the evening; he was a cautious driver and on the way introduced us to several wild animals flashing by in car headlights. We were lucky to spot a chinkara (Indian gazelle), a desert hare, cute little hedgehogs and porcupines with him!

Let us know if you need to contact him for one of your trips to Bhuj! This is what we found on the community, some interesting work being done via Sidi project.

For information, we stayed in Bhuj for 3 days making day trips to the nearby villages. It is highly advisable that you carry your photo ID copies with you as they are required at check posts and for permits to visit Great Rann of Kutch. Also, as the weather is extremely dry and cold/hot, moisturizers and lip balms will come extremely handy.

Most food you get in this area is vegetarian Gujarati thalis. The region is also well known for its special ‘mawa’ sweets (for those with a sweet tooth!).

If you are planning on a trip to Kutch soon and really want to steer away from touristy spots, do get in touch. Till then…

Keep ‘nOmading’! 🙂

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