I have had my eyes set on the Kutch region, of Gujarat in India, for years now. For starters, its isolation, complicated history and as such a painful recent past (an earthquake that struck the region in 2001 has had a massive impact) evokes a certain mysticism around the region. Its distinctive physical features- a great white desert, bordering a sea-coast on one hand, a fertile, green and well-cultivated fields on the other hand, is alluring. Not to forget, the bright, colourful and ancient tribes with a far-reaching legacy, with its roots in pre-historic Africa , makes the region a great case-study of India’s unity in diversity model.
This month, I traveled to Kutch, (finally!) and to be honest, it is too huge to be captured in words or imagery at one go. So, here’s a sneak-peak into the best moments of my travels in Kutch:
Did you know: The word ‘Kutch’ is derived from the word ‘Kachbo’ which means a tortoise. This is because of the land’s geographical resemblance to the shape of a tortoise.
The barrenness of the land is fully compensated with the colours of people, their homes and their lives
The art of weaving colourful, vibrant beads into a piece of cloth, with the help of needle and a thread is known as beadwork. Historical records show that the art is about 5000 year old, originating in Europe and is used to create decorative pieces such as wall art or personal items such as jewellery
Rogaan art- with its origins in Persia, came to India, about 400 years ago. Today the art is sustained by only one family in the village of Nirona in the Kutch region of Gujarat. Traditionally, the craft was used to beautify bridal clothing of the regional tribes. However, it recently shot to international fame, when the PM of India, Narendra Modi gifted a piece of work to the then POTUS Barack Obama. Today. the dying form of art is used to create wall art, clippers, clothing pieces such as odhni.
There are innumerable tribes in Kutch region, some with origins from Persia to Africa. Today, these tribes stay in peace together, living in as one united part of India.
One of the more sustainable forms of art work from the region is copper-bell work. Remember those world famous Swiss cow bells that you are so keen to get one for yourself? Well, the origins lie in India. Kutch instead of Swiss, anyone?
Beautiful frames, such as these, adorn the land of Kutch on every nook and corner.
Corn grows in plenty in the land of Kutch. So, if you go to Kutch, do try your hand at these sustainably and organically grown corn.
The erstwhile home of the present-day Maharaja of Kutch. Today, the mansion stands as an art of Kutch architectural wonder and doubles as film set for movie shootings. Popular Indian movies like Lagaan and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, have been shot here.
Beyond the traditional art work, Kutch is also home to the ancient art of wooden ship building. A few hours drive away from Bhuj, the capital of Kutch region, lies Mandavi, a coastal sea town. One trip to here, is a must!
When to go: December to March, is the best time to visit. These winter months are a divine intervention from the otherwise killer heat and temperature, the region experiences. These months also see, the annual ‘Rann Utsav’ or the desert festival, where the desert marshlands turn into one of the world’s largest salt plains. Ditch Bolivia and experience the wilderness of Kutch?
Clothing: Keep warm clothes at hand. Days get hotter but nights are chillier.
Stay: Ditch the popular and expensive tent cities of the desert and befriend locals to experience the best of the Kutchi hospitality. I explored the region with Chirag Munjani, of Rural Pleasure and definitely recommend you connect with them to plan your trip there. One of the memorable parts of my journey, was the local expertise and knowledge, Chirag would bring to our visit to destinations and exploration of local culture.
Full Disclosure: A part of my journey, was hosted by Rural Pleasure, for a collaboration.