About this blog: Rann Utsav or Rann of Kutch Festival is a 4-month long extravaganza celebrating the landscape, life and culture of Kutch region in Gujarat. The festival is held in Tent City, Dhordo, located about 80 km from Bhuj. This blog is about our experience at Rann Utsav and your go-to guide for your first-time visit to Rann Utsav. Read on to know more about Rann of Kutch and the festival!
I simply looked in front of me and stared into a vast area of nothingness. A vista of white stretched in front of me only to meet the blue skies at the distant horizon. I was in the salt marsh of the White Rann of Kutch. I was in this western corner of the country attending the Rann Utsav, a mélange of colours and culture.
Of all the places I have visited, White Rann of Kutch is definitely unique. Those who know me know my love for mountains and architecture. Compared to them, White Rann of Kutch seem to be just endless miles of salt stretches. However, it is this white stretch that holds the colours of life. Because the Kutch area of Gujarat is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant places I have visited. Rann Utsav also brings out the vibrancy of the region to its best.
We were in Gujarat for an action-packed 7 days to attend the #AllIndiaInfluencersMeet2021 on invitation from Gujarat Tourism. Rann of Kutch has always been on my bucket list and this was definitely a great opportunity to explore the area.
The Rann Utsav is a cultural extravaganza celebrated in the Kutch area of Gujarat over a period of four months. It is a celebration of the culture of the Kutch region while promoting the handlooms and handicrafts of the region.
The White Rann of Kutch is said to be one of the largest salt deserts in the world. The word ‘rann’ means desert in Hindi. The entire Rann of Kutch covers an area of about 26000 sq kilometres located mostly in the state of Gujarat in India and extending to the Sindh province in Pakistan.
Story of Rann Utsav
In 2001, the area witnessed a devastating earthquake. Houses fell, lives were lost and there was a heavy toll on life and property. It was after this earthquake, the influential locals and government realised the tourism potential of the place. They decided to rebuild the desert region of Kutch by a celebration of the cultural and geographical distinctions of the region.
In 2004, Rann Utsav was celebrated for the first time. During that time, the festival was celebrated only for 3 days surrounding the full moon day. Gradually the number of days kept on increasing and finally today, Rann Utsav is celebrated for 4 months starting from November and going on all the way to February.
The area was once only a salt desert. And this made life hard on these parts. The villagers from Dhordo had once thought of abandoning the place because of the tough life. But now, Rann Utsav is quite popular and people from all over the globe come here to experience the Kutchi culture. That is the story of Rann Utsav!
Tent City, Dhordo – the Epicentre of All Activities of Rann Utsav
Dhordo is a village in the Kutch region that hosts the Rann Utsav. And the festival is held at the Tent City in Dhordo. During the four months of the festival, an entire city is built up in Dhordo. There are tents for accommodation, decorations, shops and stages for cultural performances. It is like a self-sufficient settlement. And thousands of tourists visit the tent city every year.
The interesting thing is that these tents are erected every year and then dismantled as well. This is because the climatic condition of this place is not suitable all round the year. Just imagine building a city and then again destroying it!
The Tent City in Dhordo is the epicentre of all the activities of Rann Utsav. Kutch comes alive at the Tent City. Folk artists from various parts of Gujarat perform songs and dances at the cultural events in the Tent City. Other performances are also held there.
There is also an adventure zone at Tent City. You will get bicycles on rent to explore the tent city area. There is a spa at the Tent City where you can just relax and rejuvenate.
And then there is the shopping area where you will find the handicrafts and handlooms of Kutch and from other areas of Gujarat displayed. The entire place is a riot of colours and flavours of Kutch.
There are 2 dining halls in the Tent City that serves Gujarati cuisine as well as other cuisines.
Accommodation at the Tent City Kutch
The Tent City is one of the best areas to stay during Rann Utsav. You will get a complete experience of Rann Utsav there.
Staying at Tent City is a bit expensive. However, you do get a plethora of services there. The stay is comfortable and the service is quite good.
Things to do at Rann Utsav
1. Watching the Sunset at White Rann of Kutch
The advertisement for Kutch tourism says “Kutch nahi dekha to kuch nahi dekha” (If you haven’t seen Kutch, then you haven’t seen anything). While standing at the White Rann, I realised White Rann is definitely a place to be visited once in a lifetime. Mountains have always been my favourite as I revel in their magnanimity. I am also fond of the seas and forests. Like them, the endless stretches of salt desert mesmerised me. I enjoyed the peace and the nothingness that the place exuded.
It was quite breathtaking – the White Rann; with miles and miles of salt flats as far as the eyes can see.
And amidst the starkness, I saw the people. Most of them, like me, had come to this part of the country to see this natural wonder and enjoy the Rann Utsav. The people in their colourful dresses as well as the vibrant camel carts looked a tad bit brighter amidst the white background. I could only look around and admire the surroundings and wonder about the whims of nature. I was glad that I came there.
Gradually the afternoon paved the way to the golden hour that all the photographers crave for. The White Rann looked mesmerising with the sun setting at the backdrop. And it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I had witnessed.
Tip: The best time to visit the White Rann is before the sunset and before the sunrise.
2. Visit Kalo Dungar, the highest point of Kutch
Kalo Dungar or the Black Hills is one of the places that you can visit from Dhordo. Kalo Dungar is the highest point in Kutch and you will get a bird’s eye view of the entire white desert from this place. And if you have binoculars, you can even see Pakistan from the hilltop.
And on the way towards Kalo Dungar, there is a place known as Magnetic Hill. This is quite similar to that in Ladakh and Ultapani in Chhattisgarh. If you keep your vehicle in neutral at a specific place, it will start moving against gravity.
3. Gandhi Nu Gam, a place for Kutchi handicrafts
This is a place where you will get the vibrant handicrafts of Kutch. From woodwork to embroidery items like stoles, sarees, quilts to hand-block paintings and jewelleries, you will get to see a colourful display of the handicrafts and handlooms of Kutch. This is the place from where you can pick up souvenirs for home.
Gandhi Nu Gam is also the home of Kheta Ben. In 1997, India Postal Department published stamps of fourn rural Indian women in their traditional costumes from the four corners of the country. Kheta Ben from Gandhi Nu Gam, Gujarat was one of the 4 women. You can visit her house and she has a handicraft shop at her house.
4. Nirona Village
The Kutch region is always known for its handicrafts and art forms. Not only the region is known for its handicrafts, but is also known for its intricate metal and woodwork. There are a number of indigenous art forms in the Kutch region and you can literally see them in the villages you visit. The most popular place related to handicrafts is the Nirona village.
Nirona village is famous for three very unique art forms of the Kutch region- the lacquer art, copper bells and the famous rogan art. Infact, the rogan art has found its way to the White House of Washington.
5. A tryst with Bhuj
You can also make a day trip to Bhuj where you can visit the Swaminarayan Temple. The Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal are also very beautiful places resplendent with various artwork, ivory work, chandeliers, fountains and many other decorative pieces of art.
Generally, if you are staying at Tent City, Dhordo, visits to these places are usually included in their package. Tent City has separate packages that you can choose from and they will include the sightseeing options.
And finally, you can visit Bhujoidi, the place where you will get handicrafts and handlooms of Gujarat at a reasonable price. Dresses, sarees, kurtas, jackets, jewellery, quilts and other handicrafts are found here and you will definitely be spoilt for choices. At least I was quite overwhelmed with the variety and my purse was definitely a bit lighter after I left Bhujoidi!
That was my tryst with Rann Utsav for a couple of days. Meeting with like-minded people, exploring the Kutch and relishing Gujarati cuisine was definitely good for my wanderlust soul, but it also had me craving for more. I want to visit the place again.
6. Other places that you can visit from Rann of Kutch
Other than the ones mentioned above, you can also the following places at Kutch –
- Dholavira Lake
- Harappan Site
- Mandvi Beach
- Thol Lake Bird Sanctuary
- Kutch Museum
- Little Rann of Kutch
- Ekal ka Rann
So, before I end this article, here is a complete guide to your Rann of Kutch Festival or the Rann Utsav.
Rann Utsav and Rann of Kutch Travel Guide
How to reach Kutch?
Bhuj is the nearest city to the Kutch region. The nearest airport and railway station are both at Bhuj, located about 80 km from Dhordo. So to reach Tent City Dhordo or the Rann Utsav, you have to first reach Bhuj.
Reaching Bhuj by flight
One of the fastest ways to reach Bhuj is by flight. You will get flights to Bhuj from all the major cities but the frequency of the flights is quite less compared to other places. Also, flights to Bhuj are usually a bit costly and so can increase your travel budget.
Reaching Bhuj by Train
Another direct way to reach Bhuj is by taking a train. However, once again, you might not get a direct train to Bhuj from your place and have to reach Ahmedabad first. Also, it might take a long time to reach Bhuj by train from your place.
Reaching Bhuj by Bus
You can also reach Bhuj easily by buses. Both state buses and private buses are available from cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara to Bhuj. You can book state buses online and private buses from other platforms.
It takes about 6-7 hours to reach Bhuj from Ahmedabad.
Personally, I think it is better and cheaper to reach Ahmedabad and then take a bus to Bhuj.
Bhuj to Kutch
Once you are at Bhuj, you have to find a way to reach Rann of Kutch. This part becomes a bit tricky as there are very few public transportations. You can reach Rann of Kutch the following ways:
Rann of Kutch tour packages
There are many tour packages available for Rann of Kutch. In fact, if you are staying at Tent City, they provide pickup and drop from Bhuj at fixed times.
Hire a Cab
You can hire a cab from Bhuj to reach Dhordo Tent City or the Kutch area.
You can also rent a bike or scooty from Bhuj to visit the Rann of Kutch.
How to get a permit to visit Rann of Kutch?
Yes, a permit is required to visit Rann of Kutch since it is quite near the Indo-Pakistan border. If you are staying at the Tent City Dhordo or White Rann Resort, or have taken a Rann of Kutch package, then your permits will be taken care of by the tour operators.
If not, then you have to stop at the Bhirandiyara check post for getting the permit for visiting the Great Rann of Kutch, located around 20 km before Dhordo. You need to submit a photocopy of an identity and address proof and show the original as well.
These days permits can be obtained online as well.
What is the best time to visit Kutch?
Ideally, the best time to visit the Kutch region is between November to March when the water dries up in the area and you can actually witness the great salt desert. Also, the weather is better during this time. Come April, the places become sweltering hot.
Also, the Rann Utsav is also held during the months of November to February. This is the time when you can watch folk performances, eat Gujarati cuisines and shop Gujarati handlooms and handicrafts to your heart’s content.
Tip: Try to visit the Rann of Kutch during Full Moon’s night. This is because the white desert looks hauntingly beautiful during the full moon nights. It is definitely one of the most beautiful sights that you might encounter in your travels.
Where to stay at Kutch during the Rann Utsav or Rann of Kutch Festival?
You can enjoy the complete Rann Utsav and the Kutch luxury by staying at the resorts and tents near the Great Rann of Kutch. This is an expensive option, but the experience is worth the money spent.
Tent City Dhordo and the White Rann Resort are two places that you can check out. You can opt for a complete tour package with them that will include the stay, food and local sightseeing. Also, the permits will be arranged by them.
The package can start from INR 8000 and can go as high as INR 40000 for a room for 2 depending on the dates of travel and the duration of your stay. Usually, the costs are higher during full moon days and during the time of Christmas and New Year.
Also note, that if you do not book accommodation in the Tent City Dhordo, then you cannot access the premises of the tent city where the Rann Utsav takes place. But you can always visit the White Rann, Kalo Dungar, the local markets of Dhordo and the other places of attraction on your own.
If you are looking for budget-friendly options, then you can stay at the homestays and camping areas near the Great Rann of Kutch. However, these options are better if you have your own means of transport, because you will hardly get any local taxis or autos here.
Stay in Bhuj
You can also stay in Bhuj and visit the Great Rann of Kutch for the day. There are a number of hotels in Bhuj and you can also rent a scooty/ bike from Bhuj to visit Great Rann of Kutch.
What to eat at Rann Utsav, Kutch?
Gujarati cuisine is quite yummy. Tent City itself has 2 dining halls and there are food stalls at the festival venue. If you are not staying at Tent City Dhordo, you will not be able the tent premises, but there are food stalls outside the Tent City selling delectable Gujarati Cuisines and other cuisines as well.
Try Dhokla, Thepla, Khamman, Phapra, Jalebis and the Kadis.
In the end, I would like to say that Great Rann of Kutch is indeed a magical place. It is true that your travelling experience will remain incomplete if you haven’t visited Kutch. The place definitely has my heart and I would definitely want to visit there again, preferably during a full moon night!!
Rann Utsav and Greater Rann of Kutch (FAQs Answered)
If you like luxury and comfort during your travels and want to experience the culture and landscape of Rann of Kutch, it is worth visiting the Rann Utsav or the Rann of Kutch Festival. Tour packages are available of various budgets for Rann Utsav.
Rann Utsav is celebrated between November to February.
Kutch is absolutely safe to travel. There are very few instances of any untoward activities against tourists. Kutch is also quite safe for solo female travellers.
3 nights and 4 days are enough to visit the Rann of Kutch region. On the first day, you can visit Kalo Dungar and White Rann. For the next day, you can visit Mandvi and the third day can be utilised for visiting Nirona and Bhuj. If you want to visit Dholavira and Little Rann of Kutch, then you have to include a few more days in your itinerary.
Ahmedabad is about 400 km from Kutch by road. You can reach Bhuj, the biggest town in the Kutch region, by flight, buses and trains.
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