Kutch and Bhuj

Kutch district belongs to the western state of Gujarat. At its geographical centre lies the town of Bhuj which is the administrative headquarters.
Kutch literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kutch which is shallow wetland that submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The Rann is famous for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the shallow water dries up each season before the monsoon. The district is also famous for ecologically important Banni grasslands with their seasonal marshy wetlands which form the outer belt of the Rann of Kutch.
From the city of Bhuj, various ecologically rich and wildlife conservation areas of the Kutch district can be visited such as Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary,and Banni Grasslands Reserve. Dholavira (or Kotada Timba), is one of the largest and most prominent archaeological site in India belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization.
The main temple in this district is Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and a Gurudwara at Lakhpat was originally a house where the first guru Shri Guru Nanak stayed during his journey.
Bhuj is connected to major Indian cities by road, rail and air. It is a famous destination for shopping of handicraft work, the most popular being Kutchi embroidery. For purchasing handicrafts and learning about them, one can visit places like Shrujan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), Kalaraksha and Women Artisans’ Marketing Agency (WAMA, Bandhini).

Best Time to Visit: Before Monsoon season, October to May

Languages Spoken: Kutchi, Gujarati

Climate: Hot and dry summers, wet and humid during monsoon months, pleasant winters
Natural Wonders: Rann of Kutch, Banni grasslands, Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Banni Grasslands Reserve, Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve
Holy places: Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Gurudwara (Lakhpat)
Historical Sites: Dholavira archaeological site, Bhujjia Fort

Road Journeys – Turbulent Pingleshwar Beach & Chowpati of Mandvi

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Our most awaited destination was Naliya, where we filled the tank and a routine air check, after almost 600 km. With lifted confidence, we roared on the four lane upto Kothara from where a single road on the right leads towards the less visited but very natural and unexploited Pingleshwar. Passing by a few villages on a narrow bumpy road for 15-20 km, we reached at the dead end. Rows of giant wind mills were standing erect with the large blades performing in tune of the wind. An ancient temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is situated here. The shrine is brightly colorful and very well maintained but I understand very few tourists other than locals visit the temple often.

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Road Journeys – Circulating the Kutch: Narayan Sarovar & Koteshwar Mahadev

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The road was throughout single, isolated, un-inhabited and sheer windy along the creek and amidst thick long thorny bushes, but well maintained, perhaps due to military access. Luckily, the longest ever 30 km road was negotiated skillfully and we reached Narayan Sarovar before it was too dark. Later realized that we have not happened to see any wild life in the entire stretch, not even a Chinnkara or any Great Indian Bustard for which the sanctuary is meant.

On enquiries, we were informed about availability of fuel in every 2nd shops there, but at a much higher price, almost double. Helplessly, I had to pay Rs. 500/- after a bargain for 5 litres of contaminated petrol.

For information, the only accommodations available at Narayan Sarovar are the nominally paid Dharamshalas and no eateries as well. Langars at the old Dharamshala however, serve the purpose. The only public conveyance is a bus that reaches late evening and leaves early in the morning, connecting Bhuj.

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Road Journeys – Circulating the Kutch: Lakhpat the “Ghost Town”

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Scrambling, through the ruined and eroded stairs we reached atop the bastion wall. The enthralling view of the vastness of salt marsh upto the horizon and far beyond the water body was captivating. It was extremely windy and felt like reaching in a different world. Keeping an eye on any unwanted intruders by the BSF must not be an easy task. On chatting with one posted there, it was revealed, every morning an equipped patrol party wanders in the knee deep marshes in search of fresh pug marks to keep away any intruders. Obviously, this must be the easiest way for the intruders.

It was almost sun down and my worries accrued, when informed about no petrol pumps prior to Naliya towards Narayan Sarovar and Dayapar towards Bhuj. The indicator was already towards empty, but there was a hope of getting fuel at Narayan Sarovar another 30 km on the isolated road along the creek. After clicking few more snaps of the Pir Ghaus Muhammed Tomb and Sayyed Pir Shah Dargah from above the fort we decided to reach Narayan Sarovar before it was dark.

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Road Journeys – Jamnagar to Bhuj: Tankara, Birthplace of the Ascetic “Swami Dayanand Saraswati”

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Maharshi Dayānand Saraswati was born on 12 February 1824 at Tankara, Gujrat. He was an important Hindu religious leader of his time. He is well known as the founder of the Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement of the Vedic tradition. He was a profound scholar of the Vedic lore and Sanskrit language. He was the first to give the call for Swarajya as “India for Indians” in 1876, later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak.

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Road Journeys – Dwarka to Jamnagar: Narara Marine National Park & Sanctuary

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Finally we reached at a point with a gate with board of No-Entry. The forest office on the left with a guard welcomed us. Mr. Thakkar’s references again worked and we were greeted with a cup of tea and snacks. The Delhi Plate car was a surprise to all and was more astonished to know that we were driving all the way from Delhi. He informed that the marine park is a restricted area and only allowed with a guide. Surprised! Please don’t, because there wasn’t any official guide, locals in company with the forest guards, engage in guiding the seldom visitors for Rs. 100/- only. They are generally students and natives of nearby villages. The forest guard asked us to pay Rs. 100/- each as entry fee the vehicle can be parked only just after entering the No Entry gate. We paid the same with official receipt, the guide may be paid in cash.

The entire area is a protected place and well guarded by CISF, posted on watch towers with sophisticated weapons because of its proximity to the international borders and the port. We were asked to wear shorts and slippers because of the mangrove and swamp ahead. After abiding by, we started our very exciting journey towards the sea. After traversing the bushes we reached the infinitive vastness of the shores with mangroves spotting here and there. During low tide the sea water recedes to as far as five km and gradually creeps back inundating the entire vast emptiness and the mangroves by noon.

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Little Rann of Kutch…the land of the Indian Wild Ass

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It was well past 2PM when we finally reached the camp area,our stomachs had started growling by then. The camp is surrounded by vast desert area and tidbits of small villages nearby.We quickly retired to our colourful round shaped huts with straw roofs,got fresh and dashed for lunch.The lunch served by the hotel staff was a bland affair and we couldn’t find too many vegetables included.

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Kutch – of Great Rann White Desert, Kalo Dungar Black Hills and Pingleshwar White Surf Beach

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The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kutch is the Rann. In visuals you have seen it as white, featureless and stark landscape where not a blade of grass grows. Quick research of net has shown that you can enjoy two views of the Rann. First the aerial view from top of Kalo Dungar and the second is to actually walk on the white terrain at the same site where the annual Rann Mahotsav is held during full moon nights in winters.

It is May and hot. You have few hours only and have started early and are now racing north. The driver wants to take the car aerial but you have to keep reminding him that you want to see Rann only from a few hundred metres up and not all the way from the top!

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A Memorable Tour to Kutch- Part 2

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Mandvi is known for its 400 year old ship building centre. The local carpenters still make ocean going Dhows in much the same way that their ancestors had done a century ago. One can go and visit the men at work, shaping the great vessels with hand tools and coaxing the seasoned timber into shape. The predecessors of these very same ships had roamed the Indian Ocean and made Kutch a maritime power. Hand made models of these Dhows can also be procured from local artisans.

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A Memorable Tour to Kutch – Part 1

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Meanwhile there came two foreigner tourists and they asked me about bus for Bhuj, The same bus in which I had to board was going up to Bhuj so I informed them about the bus. They also had a long time to wait for bus so in order to pass the time they started talking me regarding the India, its culture, tourist places etc. Though they had a very good hand book containing complete information on India tourism destination but still they were very enthusiastic about India. They were from USA and one of them was Kevin who later became my friend as we had to travel together for next 7-8 hours.

It was 11:00 O’ clock and I was feeling hungry, I saw a small shop having garmagaram Jalebi and Fafda, I along with Kevin went there to taste this delicious Gujarati breakfast. It was really tasty and Kevin also liked it, Jalebi was a miraculous dish for him.

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