The sheer whiteness of the land, which made me a little cautious about leaving my footprints behind, the sparkling salt frozen under my feet, the wild expanse which bears no vegetation and that was suddenly transformed into an enthralling sight with the sunrise, left every one of us in awe. The White Rann in Gujarat, an incredible sight, is a salty marsh that has been left behind by the receding seas.
Stretches of junglee babool that dot the landscape, rows of castor fields, sunflower beds, saltpans on either side of the road, herds of camel carts transporting men and goods, chhakada (improvised motorcycles), a popular means of transportation, cattle grazing in the vast expanse of land tended by herdsmen, women in their traditional chaniya choli moving in groups, cattle crossing the road that can bring the traffic to a halt, is what defines Kutch.
Kutch brings to mind embroidered, bright-hued fabric with intricate hand-woven patterns, inimitable jewellery and a wide range of handcrafted articles. The sight of cattle grazing in large tracts of land is an indispensable part of the Kutch landscape, which boasts of a huge livestock population, and is one of the main sources of their livelihood for the locals.
The place is home to nomadic tribes of Rabaris, Ahirs, Jats, Maaldharis and the Meghwal community. The picturesque artisan villages of Banni, a traditional Rabari house called Bhunga, the market area in Bhuj district, rich and vivid colours of tie-dye fabric that form the tapestry of Dhamadaka village, Kachchi pots with its distinct patterns — all make Kutch picture perfect.
Local textiles and costumes lend Kutch its character. Intricate embroidery and mirror work, which is distinct to each community in the region, helps distinguish Kachchi people.
For, Jat women wear only red or black chunis, while the women from Rabari community dress up with open blouses or cholis with odhanis to cover their head. Chaniya choli is what women wear here throughout the year, and they come in myriad designs and a wide spectrum of colours. Abha and kanjari complete the Kachchhi costume. Abha is the typical choli worn by women folk. It is a top garment or a mantle. A long blouse with beautiful sequins and mirror work is kanjari.
Large stretches of saline expanses, hills of moderate height, sandy plains and mud flats, which form the predominant terrain of the Kutch region, is home to a variety of wild fauna. Wild ass, which is not to be mistaken with ordinary domesticated donkey, is found only in Little Rann. It is taller than the ordinary donkey and mightier than many species of racehorses. A herbivore, it has the features of a majestic race ass and can never be domesticated. Kutch is also home to the great Indian bustard, leopards, hyenas, jackals, chinkaras, flamingoes and a variety of bird species which are mainly migratory.
In addition to its interesting landscapes, colourful fairs, and rare species of animals and birds, Kutch is a treasure trove of rich culture, art and heritage. The district produces salt in large quantities and has the distinction of housing the first general free trade zone of the country — Kandla.
Home to world famous embroidery, art and handcrafted works, block printed fabric, leather work, silverware, ornaments, incomparable natural phenomena interesting geographical locations, the district offers tremendous potential for tourism.
The annual Kachchh Ranotsav, the desert festival, is a step in the right direction to boost tourism in the state. Also, it is an ingenious way of showcasing Kutch’s rich culture to the world — a place where art is an integral part of human existence.
It is a place where world-class art blooms beautifully against the background of a harsh physical environment.