For people looking for all that symbolises ‘Vibrant Gujarat,’ the Rann Utsav is a most looked forward to event. It has to be experienced in reality to be believed. Best visited on a full moon night between December and February, this festival exposes your senses to the region’s true essence.
The salt pan stretches ‘far and white’
White Rann is close to the Indo-Pakistan border and Zero Point. This is evident courtesy the posts manned by BSF officials and the map etched in stone at the venue. There is no human habitation beyond this point.
It is a good idea to get permits online; it will save valuable time at the permit window on arrival. Each day’s permit is valid for multiple entries and costs INR100 per person, and INR50 for the vehicle. There are no separate charges for cameras.
If one is keen on paragliding and ATR rides, it is then advisable to not book beforehand. We were quite keen to indulge in all the available activities until we got to know that they were being held outside the Rann’s gates. It was no fun paragliding without having the White Rann below, and so we decided against it.
The same was applicable to ATR and hot air balloon rides. None of these activities are permitted on the salt pans any more. These have been barred on the Rann due to its being a high security area.
Staying in tents like nomads
We had chosen to stay at the highly recommended ‘Shaam-e-Sarhad’ which was about 16 kms away from the heart of the Rann Utsav, in a place called Dhorda.
Known as the ‘Tent City,’ Dhorda boasts over 400 airconditioned and non-airconditioned tents, all neatly laid out. For those who wish to enjoy the Rann and its festivities from close quarters and revel in the chilly nights of the desert, look no further than Dhorda.
The other accommodation options closest to the Rann are the Toran Resort and the Gateway Resort. There are many more places to stay in and around the gates of the Rann, and one can pick and choose from different categories of tents depending upon individual budgets. These tents are all shaped like huts that are typical of the Kutch region. Since the festival is famous and draws tourists from all over, it is important to book beforehand to avoid disappointment.
Camel cart rides and shopping
It’s great fun dressing up for pictures in local Kachchi costumes in the backdrop of the White Rann. Camel carts, brightly clad natives, and the imposing viewing tower in the shape of a salt crystal, serve as adequate props for the purpose.
There was an ongoing handicrafts exhibition, and as per the rules of the festival, only one craftsman or artefact vendor is allowed to display and sell one particular item.
To my luck, the one I met happened to be married to a lady from Asansol. Since his wife and I shared a geographical commonality, it gave me a powerful bargaining advantage. Believe it or not, but I ended up purchasing a full gunny bag of mirror work and embroidered stuff from him!
The other not-to-be-missed activities include a camel back ride over the Rann’s sun-baked salt deposits, camel cart rides to and from the entry gate, brief chats with locals, wearing of the saafa or the traditional headgear, and dancing to the musical notes of the local musicians. There really is no dearth of things to do at this festival.
I felt like a child when I dug a few inches to collect salt deposits to take back home. I also clicked numerous pictures with the setting sun. As the sun set, it was time to interact with artisans, bards, dancers and other local talent. It was an apt curtain call to an exciting day’s sojourn on the Rann.
A haven for foodies
There was a food court serving local cuisine near the entry point to the Rann of Kutch. Foodies can go ahead and choose from a wide range of local and general cuisines to titillate their taste buds. After a long day outdoors, tourists normally prefer to head back to their respective resorts to enjoy local delicacies like bajre ka rotla, gud, ghee, kadhi, papad, rice, seera and more. Bonfires and daily performances by local artisans add to the rustic charm, adding to the overall experience for tourists.
Once the festival was over, and as we packed our bags to leave, I could not help but think how much tradition, vibrancy and gaiety there is in our country. Instead of rushing overseas on holidays, how about travelling the length and breadth of India, and appreciating the wonders we have at our doorsteps.