Rann, the enormous , one-of-its-kind wasteland, that’s submerged under water for the most part of the year and when it’s not , its a tricky and treacherous terrain. A land of mysterious maidens and seasoned tradesmen, with folk songs that speak of those that never came back and the hardships of those that did, of mirages and kings and their valiant battles.
When you walk over the salty vastness engulfed in the whiteness , one could easily lose sight of the shore and then be left to the mercy of the stars for their return. One evening under the stars on the vast expanse of the White Rann is enough to grant us perspective of exactly how small we are in the Universe.
As a hardcore non-vegetarian foodie, I can make an exception and vouch for the variety of vegetarian royal dishes on the menu. The portions small, but the varieties large, served on traditionally decorated thalis; making you feel a little underdressed for the occasion when actually you, maybe, should have worn the crown. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t have place in your tummy for that dessert or if you did have it anyway and then craved a python-ish nap.
The people are swift at negotiations. There is a certain kind of unique uprightness in them. No beggars to be seen. Land of pride I say. The women wear ghunghats, but don’t seem to be forced to cover their faces. One found them weaving , cooking, cleaning, making pots, making shawls and at the counters in shops with sharp if not sharper negotiation skills.
‘House of MG’ the place we stayed in was a heritage building quite literally the house of Maganlal Girdhardas. A gorgeous traditional place with tall ceilings but surprisingly with all modern amenities. The house had 38 rooms where the entire family used to stay at one time!! The very next day we travelled through the Little Rann of Kutch. The expanse of the desert making our convoy look like toy cars. We thoroughly enjoyed the dusty drive, spotting the wild ass, the Eurasian Roller bird, some rare raptors, salt pans and the unending mirages!! The driver had warned us about sticking to the path as the ground around could be mushy and cars could get stuck in the mud. Thankfully we reached our destination at Dholavira uneventfully.
I had heard of the Rann and wanted to visit it but anyone who visited the festival complained of the crowds and filth. But Embarq took us far away from the mad crowds to Dholavira and set up camp on the banks of of the White Rann. You see, most part of the year this place is covered with saline water. But during this season the water dries up and leaves behind a thick coat of glistening white salt. On the full moon night as we entered the white Rann the view was breath taking. We dropped off the bags in tents, ran into the White Rann and slept under the stars! If it wasn’t for the cold we wouldn’t have gone back to the tents. Next morning we left for the Rann Utsav where we stayed at a place with quaint round huts and took the night safari on a open-to-sky double decker bus. As if in a hangover of the white Rann we got lost singing under the night sky and missed our bus back to the hotel. Rest of the stay being quite uneventful, we left for Bhuj the next morning. The Wilderness Camp in Bhuj was a beautiful stay right next to a huge water body. This place had a unique beauty. One spotted lesser flamingoes flying overhead along with hordes of other birds and intermittently Sukhois doing their daily drill since the airforce base was close by, all this in the middle of nowhere. We spent the last evening in the nearby village. As the women went berserk shopping,some of us walked into the local houses getting pictures and watching the locals weave shawls! Austere people with brightly coloured attire. I had the impression this was a tiny village we were visiting, until we asked a group of colourfully dressed women if we could take their pictures. They refused saying ‘You will put it on the internet’!! Thankfully for me one old lady promptly posed and stated that she was already on the posters for the Rann festival! Guess we were meant to see all the stars !!