Kutch is the largest district in the state of Gujarat and the second largest district in India covering 45,612 Kilometers. The land of Kutch resembles a tortoise, katchua or kachbo, and is surrounded by seawater. The Great Rann of Kutch dominates a major portion of the district. Both the The Great Rann and the Little Rann of Kutch are uninhabitable deserts that are completely submerged by floods during the June to October monsoon season.
Kutch is divided into five distinct regions:
1. The Great Rann-uninhabited wasteland in the north.
2. The Grasslands of Banni
3. The Mainland-consisting of planes, hills, and dry river beds. The Mainland is generally planes but has some hill ranges and isolated hills.
4. The Coastline along the Arabian Sea in the south
5. Creeks and mangroves in the west. The southern portion of the Rann is considered an island with seawater inundating the land for most of the year.
The summer climate is extreme and temperatures range from 20 C in the winter to 450 C in the summer. The amount of rainfall is very little. The average annual rainfall is 14 inches. There are three main seasons: Summer from February to June, Monsoon season from July to September, and Winter from October to January.
WHEN TO VISIT
The best time to visit is from late October to early April.
WHERE TO STAY
Gandhidham Kutch Atithigruh
Bhuj K.V.O. Atethegruh
Shanti Dham (Samkhiyari)
Jakh Mandir Sanitorium in Madhapur, near Bhuj.
Pankaj Guest House-located on Station Road, opposite the Ambe Ashish building in Bhuj.
Hotel KBN-located on New Station Road, near Neelam Hotel in Bhuj.
Neelam Hotel-located opposite Prince Hotel, near Ravi Talkies on Station Road in Bhuj.
Swati Hotel is known as being for “rest and taste” and is located in Mundra.
There are many forts in Kutch. Some are in ruins today but others still stand in good condition.
Kanthkot is an old fort situated on top of an isolated rocky hill. This was the capital of Kathis in the 8th century and was taken from them by Chavdas. After them, came the Solankis and then the Vaghelas. On the hill are the remains of three temples.
Roha Fort is situated on a hillock, 50 km from Bhuj. It is 500 feet from ground level. Roha was the leading Jagir of Kutch and there were 52 villages under him. Rao Khengarji I established Kutch and became the ruler. After his death, his son built a fort on Roha Hill.
Tera Fort lies 85 km west of Bhuj. Tera Castle on the western edge of the state of Gujarat dominates the plains of Kutch. Tera Jagir consisted of 41 villages and was one of the largest Jagirs in Kutch.
The Madansihji Museum, in Bhuj, displays the heritage of Kutchi art and culture. Its original name is Aina Mahal, mirror palace, and the last ruler of Kutch, Maharao Madansinhji, established the Maharao of Kutch Aina Mahal Trust in 1977.
The Kutch Museum, in Bhuj, is the oldest museum in Gujarat. The museum has the largest collection of Kshatrap inscriptions. It also has a fine collection of Kutch silver, golden and enamelling work, textiles, wood work, coins, old utensils, arms, and other archeological objects. There is also a section on the communications of the district.
The Bharatiya Sanskruti Darshan Museum, in Bhuj, epitomizes the rustic lifestyles of the Kutchi villager and contains 4500 exhibits. There are also more than 1500 rare books on art and culture.
Kutchi people believe in simple living and high thinking. Rotlas, made of bajri are locally relished with chaas, butter, and gur. Khichri, made of rice and dals, is widely enjoyed. Chai has become the universal drink among all classes of people. Curd and ghee are very common in food preparation. Ground nut oil and ground nuts are usually used to make food more exotic. The usual cuisine is made up of roti or rotlas, curd, chaas, dal, curry, vegetables, paapar, and kachumber. Dry rotlis or theplas and khakras and sev are made and stored as food for travelling. The main delicacies include dhokla, ganthia, undhiyo, muthia, raita, dahi vara, kachori, bhajia, and bhaji made of eggplants, bitter gourd, okra, and other vegetables. Dabeli, puri shaak, pav bhaji, bhakarwari, papri, kadak, and many others provide a change from normal food.
There are a variety of sweets including adadiya, gulab pak, son papri, mohan thal, pedas, halwa, gulab jamun, jilebi, and many more! Seeds of dhana dal, and betel leaf with supari are served after food.
Kutchi clothes are unique and some of the embroidery is very costly. The mirror work and embroidery forms an integral part of Kutchi handicrafts. However, the workmanship differs between different communities and ethnic groups. The various communities can be identified by the pattern of handicrafts and clothes they wear. The Garacia Jat women wear only red or black chunris while Rabari women wear black open cholis with odhnis.
In rural areas, women wear chaniya cholis throughout the year. Chaniya cholis come in many designs. A Kutchi outfit is incomplete without the abha or kanjari. Abha is the typical choli worn by women and kanjari is a long blouse with beautiful embroidery and mirror work. Most men in Kutch wear loose trousers, a long sleeved under jacket, a short coat, and a plain or silk bordered cloth. Most men prefer white clothes, except Muslims who prefer colored clothes.
WHERE TO GO
In addition to the many forts and museums there is a lot more to see in Kutch. Bhuj, the capital, is the one place you won’t miss but in addition there are many small towns and villages to see that portray true Kutchi life. Kutch is also a great place to shop. There are many types of beautiful handicrafts and the embroidery of Kutch is very unique and extravagant.
Any visit to Kutch is an exciting and interesting experience filled with culture and history!
[photo credits: panjokutch.com, holidayiq.com, shunya.net, indiainfo.com, hotelkbn.com, virtualtourist.com]
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