The Journey To The Rann Of Kutch Is A Tale Of Time

The journey to the white desert, through the Banni Grasslands, takes you to the past, only to remind you that where there is pain, there is beauty
The white desert makes a show every winter
The white desert makes a show every winterlego 19861111 on Shutterstock

There's no taming time. Standing at the Rann of Kutch, with the pristine white salt flats spread out till the horizon before me, I was confronted with this realisation. But for Kutch and its people, this passing of time is second nature. "A few months ago, this was all water. This stretch of white is only here for a while and will disappear again completely by April," my guide explained nonchalantly.

After a moment of silence, he says again, "The people of this region and the people have endured a lot, and despite it, they have found a way to keep going on and find something out of it."

Looking far off in the distance at a crowd of nearly hundreds, I knew what he meant. The Rann is ethereal. It is the closest one could feel like walking on the moon. Every year, when the four months of Rann Utsav commences as the 10,000 miles of the white desert make a show, people from all over the country and the world flock to the little neighbouring village of Dhordo. Yet, this very place hides behind its pristine beauty, a story born out of calamity.

Thousands of years ago, the Rann was a shallow part of the Arabian Sea until a geological shift caused the area to be landlocked, disrupting its connection to the ocean. However, the weight of the happenings barely sneaks up on you. It is this resilience that is so ingrained in the rest of the region, too.

The cattle grazing on the grassland
The cattle grazing on the grasslandSambit Nayak on Unsplash

Beyond The Rugged Lands

While the Rann is the star of the show, the road to it from Bhuj is one to savour as well. The journey from Bhuj to Dhordo—the site of the Rann Utsav—is a roughly two-hour one, but the land it passes through holds a history that can be traced back to thousands of years ago when the Indus veining through what's now called the Banni Grassland. Considered Asia's largest grassland, the never-ending stretches of ochre punctuated by the dull green of dry deciduous plants every three miles resulted from the sediments deposited by the Indus, giving it its name that was derived from "Banai," meaning "made" in Hindi.

The Banni Grassland is Asia's largest grassland and a protected area
The Banni Grassland is Asia's largest grassland and a protected areaShreya Cheema

The approximately 2,618 sq. km area that now serves as the grazing ground for the cattle of the Maldhari communities, once used to be a fertile ground for growing red rice—a primary trade commodity that survived until the river receded due to the earthquake in 1819.

Though the land now is a patchwork of grassland and wetlands, and the cultivation of red rice only lore, the beauty that once was has taken root and still infuses the region with life. A few ten kilometres and an hour into the drive, in a village called Bhirandiara, it finds translation in a delightful bowl of mawa, made with just a few ingredients: sugar, milk of the cattle that graze on the grassland, and time.

"There's not much that goes into it. But it is special because the inherent taste of the milk is different, and that's because the cattle here graze on the grasslands replete with minerals," says the shopkeeper manning Ali's Mawa Centre as he scooped out dollops after dollops reflexively. The mawa doesn't look different, but a bite makes it easier to distinguish it from the ones found in cities. Made with not much, it held weight, and each bite reminded me of the patience with which it has been made.

The mawa at Bhirandiara
The mawa at BhirandiaraShreya Cheema

After the brief stop, we continued on our way, passing by the unending grasslands, racing with the diverse birds that make their way during winters here, and inching closer to what the essence of the great Rann and Kutch at large is—that beauty is often a result of chaos or even a remnant of it, all it needs is enough time.

Where To Stay

While the Rann of Kutch and the Rann Utsav can be a one-day affair while visiting Bhuj, booking a stay at the Rann Utsav-The Tent City for an immersive experience is worth it. The Tent City, established by Evoke Experiences, boasts 450 plush tent structures with all the necessary amenities. The Tent City has varying accommodation options, varying according to the number of guests and the price range—premium, deluxe, non-AC, Rajwadi and Darbari. 

The Tent City houses 450 tents of different categories
The Tent City houses 450 tents of different categoriesRann Utsav-The Tent City

About The Rooms: The tent-style rooms are adorned with elements reflective of the region's culture, with block-printed upholsteries, vintage-style accents, and sheen wooden furniture, including a study table. The deluxe and premier rooms can easily accommodate up to two and three people, respectively. Meanwhile, there are additional benefits accompanying a booking at the Darbari suite, including privilege transfers and express check-in. In addition, the Rajwadi and Darbari suites span 900 sq. ft and 1,600 sq ft, respectively. and comes with a separate drawing area, dressing area, complete with a vanity and extra space for storage. 

The Rajwadi suite
The Rajwadi suiteRann Utsav-The Tent City
The Super Premium suite
The Super Premium suiteRann Utsav-The Tent City

Other Amenities: The Tent City is divided into multiple zones, with each housing a particular category of accommodation. Each zone also comes with a dining area, where the buffet is served for all four meals. The dining area is clean and spacious, housing all the guests comfortably. 

The spread features diverse cuisines, from Gujarati to continental dishes. The servers are prompt about responding to all your requests and spoil you with several helpings of freshly made Indian bread, including bajre ki roti and parathas for breakfast. For breakfast, there are live counters dishing up delicious and crispy dosa and fluffy uttapams, as well as fresh puris. 

More In The Tent City: The Tent City sticks to its name, and its scale is apparent from the grand installation at the entrance, which is modelled after those of royal palaces. The expansive property, which is installed every year at the beginning of Rann Utsav, includes an in-house market, which includes shops set up by local artisans. It is just the right place to pick up souvenirs particular to the region, such as lippan art wall hangings, hammered copper bells, clothes with ajrakh print and kachchi mirror work. Besides shopping, you can also spend time at the clubhouse over a game of snooker or chess during the day, appreciate art at the gallery or get your dose of adrenaline from all the adventure activities—from go-karting to shooting to bungee jumping and zip-lining, all within the property. Every evening, The Tent City also organises cultural performances, ranging from folk music to folk dance. In addition, you can also enjoy bonfire with your family or get your hands dirty trying to learn pottery. Another fascinating option that you do have is to wake up early in the morning and go offroading on a cycle all the way to the Rann. 

About Bookings And Tariffs: Tariffs differ according to the accommodation type and the package selected. You can choose from 1,2,3, and 4-night packages—each is inclusive of the selection of activities within The Tent City, sightseeing (featuring Rann of Kutch, Dholavira, Kadiya Dhro, Kalo Dungar and Nadabet), meals and airport transfer. For bookings, visit here

How To Get There

To reach Dhordo, you can take a flight to Ahmedabad and then to Bhuj. From Bhuj, Dhordo is an approximately two-hour drive away. The nearest railway station is also in Bhuj.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller