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Nearest Airport to Kutch

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kutch overview

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how to reach kutch

NH8A to Bhachau via Limbdi, Bamanbore, Wankaner, Morbi and Maliya Miyana; SH to Bhuj via Bhujodi.

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about kutch

Except for the shape and nature of this beautiful place, while visiting Kutch, you can come close to the 18 varied tribes living harmoniously despite their distinct language, culture and customs. Alongwith enjoying the cultural heritage of the region, Kutch is a wonderful place to have fun with camel rides, jeep safaris, wildlife spotting (Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary is here), and shopping. One can shop for various handicraft items of the Bandhani and Kalamkari art forms prepared by tribals of the region.

Archaeological sites like Dholavira and Lothal in Kutch attest to the existence of the Harappan Civilisation around 2,500 BCE. The first mention of a Kachchha Kingdom comes from a Rudradaman inscription dated 150 CE. The origin of the words Kachchha or Kutch and Bhuj remains a mystery. In the 16th century, Bhuj was known to the Islamic world as Sulaiman Nagar. There is a mystical strength in this place. There is otherwise no reason why it should be etched so emphatically on the world map. If Kutch, nature’s most hated child, continues to surprise you, it’s because there’s something in its existence that cannot be wiped out. 

Earthquakes orphaned the Kutchis. Cyclones uprooted them. Droughts dried them up. The heat chars them. The cold freezes them. They defy it all with stoicism. So what is it that keeps the Kutchis going? The very fact that they don’t know of their defiance. The very fact that they don’t know of their resilience. There’s an uncanny grounded-ness in the people of this cursed land, where the earth is perennially restless with tectonic movements. Yet, from this daily struggle, springs the art that often decorates the homes and attire of participants in seminar-cocktail circuits; the art that wins the Kutchis their daily bread. Theirs is the masonry of grit, a bright embroidery on a weather-beaten existence. As Bhuj is the headquarters of Kutch and is well connected to the rest of India, it’s best to explore the region from here.

Driving anywhere in Kutch is a pleasure. Smooth roads snake through the barren terrain like nonexistent rivers. Hundreds of hectares of stark landscape contrast every now and then with colourful images of maldhari women. Dressed in embroidered reds and yellows, they pop up from nowhere as if defying the dusty brown of the terrain… like spots of mirage on a forlorn land. Bhujodi (10 km W of Bhuj) Just before Bhuj, you reach Bhujodi, the centre of Vankars (weavers), who make Kutch’s famous woollen shawls, embroidered bedspreads and sofa covers.

Nearly 200 families here have been engaged in this craft for several decades. Among them is national master craftsman Devji Vankar who’s set up the Handloom Design Centre to train others. “For 30 years I have been involved in this craft, handed down by my father. Now I should pass on the skills to others. I have been training artisans for this,” says Devji. Vankars migrated to Kutch from Marwar, in Rajasthan, several centuries ago. Interactions with the local Rabari community led to a mutually beneficial relationship. The Rabaris breed sheep, whose wool, shorn once a year, is sold to the Vankars, who in turn weave it into odhnis and other similar shawls. Says Sonal Maniar, a consultant with Shrujan, an NGO working in the area,

“You always find the Vankars wherever there is a big Rabari conglomeration, for the Rabaris need them to weave their clothing.” The shawls, explains handicraft expert Sandra Jhala, were traditionally made from the wool of white and black sheep, and natural dyes in five shades — black, red, green and indigo — were used. In the last two decades, changes in lifestyle as well as fashion trends and the modernisation of the textile industry have altered the original design, texture and shape of the fabric. “Muted colours have now been replaced by gaudy fluorescent ones. Faux cashmere, a synthetic acrylic man-made fibre available at cheaper rates, has gained popularity,” points out Jhala.

Still, Bhujodi will always have the distinction of being home to eight master craftsmen who share their skills with the younger generation. Devji’s centre thus assumes significance. It produces cotton bedspreads, dress fabric, dupattas, bags, upholstery, cushion covers and shawls. Weaving a woollen magic There are currently about a thousand Vankars involved in weaving and selling shawls worth over INR 5 crore annually. The Vankars weave these miracles on traditional pit or shuttle looms using desi Merino and even acrylic wool. The shawls then are tied and dyed by the Khatris who pass it on to the Rabari, Ahir and Abhla communities, who in turn, embroider them.

The colour, texture, look and feel is thus a fusion of the traditional crafts of the Kutch people. You can buy these for anything from INR 250-1,80,000, depending on the size, quality and embroidery. In Bhujodi, stop by at Shrujan, the NGO involved in reviving lost embroidery skills and techniques and in providing work to more than 3,500 women from over 100 villages. Set up by Chandaben Shroff in 1969 after a severe drought in the region, Shrujan has over the years trained over 25,000 women in both the craft and the marketing of their products.

The women have thus been able to improve upon their standard of living — they have invested in land, can afford good health care and have bought livestock. Anjar (41 km SE of Bhuj) Devastated by earthquakes many times, Anjar, on the Bhuj-Gandhidham Road, is a settlement that traces its origins to an ancient maritime trade route. It’s said to have been founded by Ajepal, brother of the king of Ajmer, in 805 CE. By the mid-12th century, it became a centre of some 12 villages. In the 16th century, it came under the sway of the local chieftan Khengarji and in the 18th century, one Desalji is said to have fortified the town.

In 1815, the British occupied it and kept it till 1822 when an earthquake hit the region and Anjar was razed to the ground. This is also the town that was famous for silver jewellery and metal crafts. The 2001 earthquake nearly wiped out the town’s population and with it, its craftsmen. There were 106 jewellery shops here, now there are only 60-70 and the numbers are dwindling. All that’s silver Anjar’s silver is obtained from local sources and is handcrafted. “What sets us apart is that the metal has a special kind of hardness and a unique flexibility, which allows us to craft it anyway we want,” explains Mohanbhai Soni at a jewellery shop in a crowded Anjar market.

These craftsmen produce an array of exquisite ornaments, like the choki (a rectangular necklace), toda (anklets) and wadlo (spring-pendants). Betel nut crackers Anjar is also known for its metal crafts, especially betel nut crackers and penknives. Palan Metal Shop in Anjar is a good representative of other similar shops in Ganga Bazaar. Call Kishore Palan, the owner, for directions. Here you’ll find various kinds of knives, betel nut crackers and peacock or pistol-shaped brass door handles.

The Khatris of Anjar for years have specialised in tie-and-dye and block printed textiles using natural dyes, though the process is today practised across the state. At the Khatri Chowk, look for Kutch Lucky Handicrafts and other shops dealing in handicrafts. Ask the shop owners to take you to their workshop to watch the process of cloth printing. Nirona (40 km N of Bhuj) A comfortable car ride takes you to one of Kutch’s most famous towns, home to many traditional arts. It’s a typically dusty small town with houses almost kissing each other. The town’s population includes potters, leather workers and weavers known as Meghwals. Prominent among the crafts here are the handcrafted copper bells, tied traditionally by maldharis on the necks of cattle.

These have now taken the shape of rhythmic wind chimes. Then there is Rogan art, a unique fine painting on cloth using natural gum, and neatly carved and embroidered leather works. Also, there are the exquisite Kutch textiles. Bell Inc The father and son duo of blacksmiths Hussain Siddique and Umar Hussain, out of a handful of families making the copper bells in Nirona and nearby Zura village, have made a name for themselves with their rhythmic copper bells and chandelier-like wind chimes. Unique among their products is the seven-bell wind chime with soothing notes of Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni.

Each bell has a different size and produces a different sound. The thickness of copper and its moulding define the sound as does the quality of mud, copper and iron used. Explains Dilip Vaidya, a veteran Kutchi in Bhuj, “The only reason that copper bells are made in Nirona is the special type of thick sticky sand available in this region. It is not available anywhere else.” A colourful world Few know of the technical virtuosity and sophistication of the ancient Persian craft known as Rogan, which survives in this tiny hamlet because of one family which has relentlessly pursued it. In Nirona, Abdulgafoor Dawoodbhai Khatri’s family has been practising Rogan art for the last 400 years, passing on the tradition from one generation to the other.

The Rogan process is labour intensive. The painting paste is obtained from castor oil, which is boiled for two days before it is poured into a container with cold water. The residue obtained is then mixed with mineral pigments and transferred onto a cloth with the help of a short stick or an iron rod. Patterns are made on one side of the cloth, which is then pressed against the other half — creating a perfect symmetry. Each colour is applied separately and dried in the sun. In all, it takes two to three months to complete one painting. A strong foothold How about a beautifully embroidered leather fan with mirrors?

Khetsinh Maru and Devji Nigar have been creating leather wonders for seven generations. Their ancestors used to make leather footwear for soldiers and royal families. Sadly, there are few takers for their art today. But they aren’t giving up. Items cost between Rs 70-500, depending on craftsmanship. Soof embroidery Near Nirona lies the tiny village of Sumrasar, home to the Ahirs and the Meghwal tribe and an NGO, Kala Raksha. Sumrasar is a quaint village surrounded on one side by gently slopping hills and open dusty plains on the other. During the day, you’ll come across women and children sitting on the porches of their beautiful mirrordecorated houses while men and cattle wander in search of pasture. The Ahirs, who form 70 per cent of the population, are said to be the descendants of the Yadavas of North India, who claim to have trailed Lord Krishna when he left for Dwarka and then settled en route in Kutch.

The Meghwals of Sumrasar are more recent settlers, who crossed over from the Pakistan border following the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Nearly all the women of Sumrasar are engaged in creating embroidery known as soof, in which threads of the cloth are counted and stitching is done on the back of the cloth. You can spend some time with Kala Raksha’s enthusiastic staff at their beautiful and tranquil workshop, where you’ll find samples of soof work. To learn more about the craft, ask the Kala Raksha staff to introduce you to the embroiderers. To get there, take the road to Loriya village (25 km) on the Bhuj-Nirona Road and then turn right to Sumrasar (3 km from Loriya).

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Kutch traveller reviews

9 Kutch reviews
Er Bhavin Patel
Er Bhavin Patel
amazing place to visit!!!!
Aug 25 2014
The place has its own charm.If you love peace then this is the place for you.This is kind of a place that makes you fall in love. who loves deserts and loneliness they have to visit this beautiful place.
Surinder Sareen
Surinder Sareen
best place to see white sand....
Jun 26 2014
Kutch is a beautiful place located in gujrat....It is best in terms of watching how ethnic tribal live in India...The view of the white desert is amazing specially on a full moon night. Overall its an AMZAING EXPERIENCE.....

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