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Gujarat gets tagged as one of the culturally rich state in India with respect to the art forms like folk dances, handicrafts, embroidered textiles and exotic junk jewellery. But do you know which region of Gujarat contributes to it being a culturally rich state?


It is the self-effacing yet very flamboyant Kutch. The geography of Kutch is so diverse that the Gulf of Kutch and the Arabian Sea surrounds the South and West while the deserted area of Kutch is towards the Northern and the Eastern parts.

Bhunga Room at Shaam-E-Sarhad

What is Rann of Kutch?

The Rann of Kutch is among the world’s very few salt desserts or salt marsh located in the Thar Dessert in the Kutch district of Gujarat. Rann basically in Hindi means a dessert. This dessert is one of its kind and distinct in itself because of the uniqueness of not being covered by sand but salt crystals. Dhordo, a small village in Bhuj in the Kutch district of Gujarat has the privilege of hosting the Rann Utsav during the winter months starting from November to February.


Rann Utsav can be translated as the Dessert Festival. Every year a “Tent City” is constructed for tourists near the village of Dhordo. During this span of time it is a very extravagant man-made city of tents which keeps on bustling for good four months. It is a perfect family destination and a budget friendly holiday to relax and soak in the diverse culture of this part of India.

The official dates of Rann Utsav are announced and this year, you can be a part of it from 1st November, 2018 to 4th  March, 2019. If you plan to spend your time at this dessert festival then the best time to explore this spectacular white salt dessert is during the “Full Moon Days”. The main advantage of going during the full moon days is that you feel that the stars have descended on the earth as the salt crystals sparkle in the full moon light.

The activities that you can experience during your stay at the “Tent City” at the Rann Utsav are:

-The cultural folk dances
-Camel cart and camel rides
-ATV Rides

Different spectrum of the Gujarati culture expanding from food, dressing style to local livelihood and a lot more. Our personal favourite while being at the Rann Utsav is the spell bounding sunset that takes place across the horizon of the salt flats. The sun sets down leaving its orange tint all through the clear skies and it was one of the most beautiful sunsets that we have witnessed.

Accommodation:

When we planned our visit to the Rann Utsav, we did not stay in the “Tent City” as we wanted a balance of quiet as well as culturally rich environment and hence we booked our two days stay at Shaam-E-Sarhad Village Resort which means “Evening by the Border” which is managed by the village and local community of the Hodka village. We loved the concept of the stay here and hence it was one of our most sort after decision.

 

This resort is open from months of October to March. The village community supports their livelihood by maintaining this resort and also promotes rural tourism and its development and hence trying to become self-reliant on their own.

This village resort is an initiative by the Ministry of Tourism of Government of India that aims to enable the local communities to introduce the art culture and heritage of this region to the world.

Rooms:

Of the two days’ stay at Shaam-E-Sarhad, on our first day we enjoyed the eco-friendly Mud Tents and on our day 2 we stayed in the Suite Bhungas that are circular mud huts with sloping roofs that are very typical to the region. All the room categories have attached bathrooms with western style toilet and shower 24*7 running water. Both our experiences of staying in a Bhunga and a Tent was unique in its own way because
both categories have their own distinctiveness. Each Bhunga has a private open space with chairs to relax on and just spend a leisure time. Both, Tents and Bhungas are very spacious for double occupancy and an extra bed is made available, on request.

Things to be Noted while making Bookings:

1. All the rooms do not have air-conditioning facility but the construction and location of the resort does not make it necessary to have air-conditioners in the rooms.

2. Hot water buckets are provided during particular slots which can be enquired at the
reception.

3. No rooms have TV sets, but every evening you can spend your time underneath the stars adjacent to the bonfire, enjoying the folk dances.

The room categories available at Shaam-E-Sarhad are:
Three Suite Bhungas (Suite Mud Huts)
Six Eco-friendly Mud Tents
Two Family Cottages
One Standard Bhunga (Standard Hut)

The resort has very limited rooms and staff as they want to preserve the authenticity and rawness of the place. It is better to book well in advance through their official website www.hodka.in

 

Food and Hospitality:

As this place provides a very homely environment, we cannot expect a very professional
approach to the service, but the staff is very warm and caring and will leave no stone
unturned to make you feel comfortable. The food that they serve is traditional Gujarati Lunch and Kutchi Dinner. Breakfast can be a variety of fruits, cereals, etc. Jain food is also served but has to be pre-informed while making the bookings.

How to Reach?

You can make it to Rann Utsav, Kutch:

Flight Connectivity: Bhuj, being the nearest airport at a distance of about 65 kms has direct flights only from Mumbai, Maharashtra.

By Road: You can hire a car or hop into an overnight bus service available from Ahmedabad, Gujarat which is at a distance of about 400kms to Bhuj and Hodka Village is at a distance of about 63kms from Bhuj.

We opted a private car hiring option from Ahmedabad to reach the Rann Utsav. The roads are extremely travel-friendly and hence road journey is an enjoyable and preferred choice.

By Rail: There is good rail connectivity as there are daily trains from Mumbai and Delhi to reach Ahmedabad and then cover the journey to Bhuj via road.

Kutch Express and Bhuj-Bandra Train are direct trains from Mumbai to Bhuj.
For more information and booking, check www.irctc.com (Indian Railway booking website)

What can you shop?

One thing to keep in mind while visiting Kutch during its peak tourist season is that all the pricetags on the products out on sale will be overpriced, so it is advisable to bargain but please do not bargain to the extent that local people will not be able to earn reasonably.

The items that can be purchased are:

– Traditional kutcha handicrafts and embroidery work that has been passed on through
   the generations which is an extremely intricate work.

– You can find block printed fabrics and gift articles that suit your taste and preferences.

– Traditional footwears like mojris, junk jewellery like neckpieces, heavy earrings, kadas,
   bangles, nose rings etc.

– Also, some amazing home decors like pillow covers, bedsheets, table covers etc.            

 

If you are interested in exploring the exquisite handicraft of the state of Gujarat like
embroidery, block printing, wood carvings, mud wall paintings, silver works, pen, knives and nut crackers, copper coated iron belts and toys made of seas shells and if you want to go on a handicraft trail, then you can book through the website of Gujarat Government being www.rannutsav.com for a unique handicraft themed holiday.

If you wish to stay in the “Tent City” during the ongoing Rann Utsav, the categories of tents in the “Tent City” are:

Premium Tents from INR. 8,100
Deluxe AC Tents from INR. 7,100
Non-AC Tents from INR. 5,500

All the tents in the “Tent City” are well equipped and make for a very comfortable stay.

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