Rann Utsav – The Oasis in the Desert of Kutch, Gujarat

Behind the dry and arid region of the desert, stands a place with rich history of arts, culture and heritage. The eerie silence of the barren lands is enough to give you goosebumps, but add to beauty of the place. I never knew deserts can be beautiful until I visited the magnificent desert of Kutch. That’s the unique charm of the place, which makes you wonder about the miracles of nature. 

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

Rann of Kutch is around 50 km from Bhuj city, hence if you visit there you must experience stay at tent city in Rann Utsav. Been there, done that, here is an account of magical experience at Rann Utsav.

The tent city is located at Dhordo village, which is located around 50 km from Bhuj city. The pick-up facility is provided by the Rann Utsav team, arranging pick-ups from railway station and airport.

After a good 1.5 hour ride, as you step down from the vehicle, you are welcomed on the sounds of the dhol accompanied by folk dance. The energy of the beats wears off your fatigue. Above all, it livens up the atmosphere.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

After checking in the tent city, you are at your leisure to explore the place. Spread across an area of 5000 sq.meters, tent city houses 500 tents and cottages, 2 dining halls, a shopping area, some photo points and one activity area. But, the good part is the availability of golf carts to ferry you around the place.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

For the shopaholic souls, there’s a dedicated area to let out the inner shopping monster. There’s a plethora of items on sale, for instance, bandhni duppattas, hand-woven shawls, metal artefacts etc. You can also try your hand at various crafts like pottery and clay modelling at nominal charges and make your stay worth. The dining experience is one not to be missed. An excellent spread of Gujarati cuisine is on offer, not once or twice, but four times a day. Enough to leave you with foodgasm.

Magical & Mystical White Rann

As the evening nears up, you grab your camera and head towards the mystical white rann to witness the beauty of the desert. A barren salt flat that extends over an area of 17000 sq. km and stretches across International Border to Pakistan. Once upon a time this area was a seashore. But owing to tectonic movements, a part of ocean dried up in the region leaving behind the huge flat salt plain. 

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

In an honest opinion, the place is worth all the hype. The white backdrop appears so beautiful that you just cannot take your eyes off them. And it becomes even more beautiful when the full moon shines at night. As long as your sight reach, everything is shining and sparkling under the beautifully lit moon. It is one experience you must have in your lifetime. It’s just like a fairy tale ending to an eventful day.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

If the moonlit desert wasn’t enough to enthral you, a captivating sunrise definitely will complete the formalities. As you notice the changing shades of the skies from black to pink to orange to blue, from the horizon, emerges an orange ball with a Midas touch, turning everything to gold. 

Captivating Kalo Dungar

Still being hungover from the magnificent views of the white desert, after a sumptuous breakfast, you head towards Kalo Dungar. Standing at an elevation of 300 m above sea level, Kalo Dungar is the highest peak of Kutch and was used as a compass in olden days while travelling. 

It takes around one hour ride from Tent City to reach Kalo Dungar. The peak is situated around 500 m from the parking spot and you can either walk or enjoy the camel-back ride to the top. Once at the peak, you have a panoramic view of the desert and the back-waters of Khari River. On a clear day, you can even see Indo-Pak border through binoculars. 

There is an interesting legend associated with the place. Over 4 centuries ago, there lived a saint named Pachmai Peer on the hills. One day a pack of wild jackals appeared in his ashram and stood expectantly in front of him. Looking into their eyes, he realized that they were famished. All that he could offer them was a spartan meal of rice and dal. And offer he did, and the jackals went back with their tummies full.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The ritual of feeding continued for months till one day when there was no food in the ashram.  Realizing that his guests will have to go back hungry, the Peer, in a gesture of unimaginable generosity, chopped off his hand and offered it to the jackals, saying ‘lo ang’, which meant ‘here, eat my hand’. The jackals, as on every other day, went back satiated. But from that day onwards, the inmates of the ashram have made sure that the jackals of Kalo Dungar are fed, not once but twice a day.And they haven’t missed it even once in the last 400 years.

Marvelous Mandvi

After witnessing the generosity of the saint, we return to base and have a lavish lunch at the Tent City. After an hour of leisure time, we set off for Mandvi Beach. If anyone asks me about my favourite beach destination of Gujarat, Mandvi beach wins hands down.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The pristine blue waters of the sea are a treat to sore eyes. The huge windmills set at the shore add to the beauty of the shores. And the flocking sea-gulls become an icing on the cake.

A couple of kilometre towards the north of the beach stands the magnanimous Vijay Vilas Palace. The central high dome on the pillars, the Bengal domes on the sides, the windows with coloured glass, carved stone ‘Jalis’, domed bastions at the corners, extended porch and other exquisitely stone-carved elements, make the palace worth visiting.  

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The palace hosts a private beach and is home to the Royal Family of Kutch. A closer look and you can recognize the shooting spots from the movies Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Lagaan.  The topmost point offers an unobstructed view of the sun slowly setting into the Arabian Sea, ending a day full of events.

Cultural Events at Tent City

You return from Mandvi around and have a gourmet dinner ready for you, but the fun isn’t over yet. You move towards the activity area where you will get up close and personal with the colours and flavours of Gujarati folk performances. 

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The stand-out performance of the night is the Siddi Dhamal. The Siddis are the descendants of the indigenous Bantu tribes of East Africa, who migrated to the subcontinent during the Colonial Era. Bringing the African touch of Zumba and Haka, Siddi Dhamal is one refreshing act performed on the beats of the Bongos. It is another experience that livens up your mood and incites the inner aboriginal in you.

As the music plays in long into the night, you enjoy every moment of it and reminisce the wonderful moments spent in the magical, mystical and beautiful desert of Kutch.  

Juley Ladakh

Juley, meaning Greetings, is the first word you hear when you enter Ladakh, India’s second largest district in terms of area, situated at an altitude of 10500 feet above MSL, is cold desert that awaits you with its own uniqueness, charm and beauty. The mesmerising Pangong Tso, the highest motorable roads, the terrific passes and the peaceful Monasteries awaits you as you go on a trip of your lifetime.

As you embark upon the journey on Srinagar-Leh Highway, you are greeted into Ladakh at Patthar Sahib Gurdwara, which will make you believe in the power of God. Legend has its say that Guru Nanakji while preaching the Sikh religion arrived at this particular place and was meditating peacefully. His glory spread in the nearby areas and people started worshiping him. It is said that a Satan or a Monster lived on a mountain across. In order to spread his fear he pushed a boulder down the mountain so as to kill Guru Nanakji who was meditating below peacefully. Call it the power of penance or call it a miracle, the stone turned to wax before hitting Nanakji. Stunned at this the Satan kicked the stone and to his surprise stone turned to wax. After this the Satan realized his mistake and became Guru Nanakji’s disciple. The impression of Nanakji’s back and the Satan’s foot are still visible on the stone. Makes you believe “God is Great!”

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 1/23 by Krutarth Vashi

Moving on, take a quick break on the road as you strain your brain on how mystical creation our planet earth is! A hill on the way to Leh awaits to pull you towards itself even though you are not willing to go. Welcome to the Magnetic Hill sign says as you reach there.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India By Krutarth Vashi

The hill has magnetic properties which pulls the metallic objects towards itself, it pulls the vehicles up the gradient. The airplanes increase there altitude while passing through the area and the cars are always parked in gear. Best way to save fuel!

After getting acclimatized to the higher altitudes, breathing in the purest oxygen on the earth and gazing the beautiful landscapes the place has to offer, you will stumble upon preaching of Lord Buddha at Thiksey and Hemis Monastries.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 3/23 by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 4/23 by Krutarth Vashi

The prayer bells and the stupas brings out the positive energy within you and removes all the negative vibes. Truly a magical journey!

The trademark at the monasteries are these Stupa and the prayer flags. In a nutshell, each and every corner provides you with inner cleansing!

And after all that spiritualism, top it up with utmost peace as visit the Shanti Stupa.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 8/23 by Krutarth Vashi

Constructed in the year 1991 by a Japanese Buddhist as a part of the Peace Pagoda Mission. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa is built as a two-level structure. The first level features the central relief of Dharmachakra with deer on each side. A central golden Buddha image sits on a platform depicting the “turning wheel of Dharma.” The second level has reliefs depicting the “birth” of Buddha, the death of Buddha and Buddha “defeating the devils” while meditating.Both levels feature a series of smaller meditating Buddha reliefs.The Shanti Stupa was built to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism.It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh.

Scaling new heights can be taken quite literally here as you access various places through world’s three highest motorable roads.

And then you arrive at one of the most pristine places on the earth which goes by the name of Pangong Tso. It is situated about 140 kms to the north of Leh town and located at 14000 ft above MSL, the unique fact about the lake is that only 30% of it is in India, the rest 70% lies in China.The pristine turquoise-blue water of the lake is the main attraction. If lucky on a clear day, one can see 7 different shades of blue. Another interesting fact is that it is a salt water lake despite being at such an altitude. The reason behind it is when the Himalayas emerged from the sea, some of the sea water got displaced and it still remains there.

Image may contain: bird, outdoor and water

The seagulls flocking all over the vast lake will be a visual delight if you love birds. The place itself gives you such a pleasure and a feeling which cannot be described by words that after clicking a few photographs for memory, you just sit there on the banks and capture those beautiful moments within your soul!

The animal in the mountains are quite interesting as well. The furry marmots can be found burrowing up along the roads and the magnificent Kyangs will race you to the mountain top. Just amazing.

And just as it seemed that the journey is about to get over, you are served with Nubra Valley on your platter. This is the best example of Nature at its Peak. Nubra Valley is an amazing combination of 3 extremely different aspects of nature together! Snow, Desert, Forest! All three at one place and it is a superb journey.
The major attraction is the Sand Dunes. Once you see them only exclamations emerge from your mouth, such is the magnanimity of those dunes.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 21/23 by Krutarth Vashi

Enjoy a camel ride on the indigenous two-humped camels and be humbled by the blessings of the Future Buddha at Diskit.

Stayed amazed by the terrific passes, be blessed by the Buddha, get awed by the beauty of Pangong, experience the art of God at Nubra, eat, merry and celebrate and as it is said there in Ladakh, 

“If Kashmir is the Crown of India, Ladakh is the Jewel in the Crown!”