A desolate and massive expanse of salt pans, the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is the largest salt desert in the world with the Great and Little Rann of Kutch spanning 30,000 square kilometres. Located in a harsh and uninhabitable topography in the Thar desert, the Rann witnesses extreme climatic conditions with summer temperatures peaking up to an unbearable 49.5 degrees Celsius and winter temperatures dropping to 2 degrees Celsius.
The Rann mudflats are inundated with water during the monsoons after which the water evaporates to form the salty marsh land. The best time to visit is between December and March when the Rann is an infinite expanse of a pristine white salt bed as far as your eyes can see. The grandeur of the aptly named White Desert is both captivating and enigmatic because you just can’t get enough of it. You want to travel as far as you can, your feet sinking into the salty marsh as you go further, in the quest of what lies beyond.
The ideal time to visit is during the full moon period as the sight of the glistening salt under the moonlight is difficult to describe in words. What is also gorgeous is watching the sun and the moon at the same time during dawn and dusk. When we were en route the Rann just before the break of dawn, it was a sight to behold- we saw the full moon with an orangish tinge against the shimmering white sand. And, as the moon slowly faded out, the sun rose casting its beam across the white desert; it was simply surreal.
Camera courtesy- Akshay Jain, a co-traveller
You can either make a day trip from Bhuj (around 100 kms away), stay in the Gujarat Tourism operated accommodation facilities or a local homestay. Being in a desert, there’s not much to do as you can’t step out during the day in the scorching heat. Also, there’s no network, so you switch off from your hectic city life in the truest sense. Soak in the serenity that envelopes you and make use of this time to reflect upon things and get some ‘me time’.
This bleak and barren desert comes alive during the Rann Utsav- a festival celebrating the cultural diversity of the region of Kutch organized by Gujarat Tourism. (Everyone remembers the Amitabh Bacchan ads- Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha). It’s a carnival of sorts with music, dance and the beautiful works of the local craftsmen; people from world over visit to get a flavour of the vibrant traditions and lifestyles of the locals. Tents are set up at a small town, Dhordo, close to the Rann of Kutch between December and February. Not quite your luxurious tents, but they are fairly good and spacious. One can also choose to live in a mud house, locally known as a ‘Bhunga’ for a more authentic experience. During the day, browse through the colourful wares showcasing the traditional Kutchi work of the artisans in the Crafts Village. At night, tune in to the soulful folk songs sung by the local artists.
As much as the Rann is enchanting in all its glory during the Rann Utsav, one must look at in totality and what happens beyond the Utsav – the lives the locals lead and the hardships they have to bear, in the severe conditions of the unforgiving desert.
Because by end of February, the tents are wrapped up and the stalls with their flamboyant goods disappear, leaving no sign of the festivities that once took place there. The Great Rann of Kutch returns to its barren persona, leading one to wonder- could all this have been just a mirage?
Have you visited any place which has elicited conflicting emotions in you?
Also read: Planning your holiday to Rann of Kutch