The white and bright of Kutch
The whims and fancies of nature combine well with the colours and structures to make the region a festival of life
What a robber nature has been! As far as the eye can travel, nothing meets it but the barren lands and scanty shrubs. The heart sinks a bit and the mind wonders at the probability of survival in such harshness.
That is only till the herders at the roadside greet you with such smiles that, strangely, have satisfaction written all over them, despite being dealt the worst of cards this season, when rain turned a blind eye towards the Rann of Kutch. One look at the white Rann and you seem to understand the beauty of minimalism that perhaps guides their ways.
The white carpet of salt that spans till the horizon changes colours, with every passing phase of the sun — going beautifully from glowing yellow at sunrise to fiery crimson at sunset. Yet, it is the perfection of full moon, when it shines like a white pearl, that brings out its unblemished magnificence.
And, the vivid hues that accompany it truly show that Kutchi people would rather celebrate life than curse the inadequacies. As the, otherwise, inhospitable land metamorphoses into the giant Tent City during Rann Utsav (till February 20), the artists and artisans from all over Kutch come together to add to its rustic charm.
LAWS OF PHYSICS
The melodies from there continue till the highest point of Kutch. The ascent, however, is preceded by a brief shopping halt at a handicraft village, Gandhi nu Gam, and curiosityamplifying magnetic field spots a little before Kalo Dungar or the black hill. Just like the popular Magnetic Hill in Ladakh, these spots also pull loaded vehicles, adding to the mysterious ways of this place.
Not too far, Kalo Dungar gives a splendid bird’s eye view of the entire Great Rann. Legend has it that it was this black hill that helped many a traveller find their way in the mighty desert, thanks to its peculiar colour and height.
Mandvi’s coastline and green vistas seem to take you to some other world altogether. It doesn’t need decorated camels to add colour to its bland landscape, like Rann. The tall trees and blue waters of the Arabian Sea are enough for this 16th century trade port, whose merchants owned hundreds of vessels and their business reached as far as Africa. The ships, being made from timber, still catch everyone’s attention.
While most of the fort walls of yesteryear are crumbling, Vijay Vilas Palace stands as a sight of perfecti ion among unruly woods and well l-laid gardens. If the firstf look jolts the mind withw familiarity, all youy need to do is go back to Bollywood references. For it was here, that the select audience sat and watched Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) trump the British team in Lagaan’s (2001) roller coaster cricket match. Its domes, latticed windows, exquisite porches and stone work strike an instant affair with the lens.
OF PAST AND PRESENT
It’s strange how nature rapidly oscillates from generous to unforgiving in
utchh. The human ndeavvour has long riumphhed over the catacclysmic blow of destiny iin Bhuj. Yet, there are places like Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal that bear the consequences of that sinister 2001 quake, and keep the memory alive.
The latter, which made for many shots in Lagaan, again for its Italian Gothic architecture, has a ghostly shadow over it with dislodged stones and scattered material for restoration. The 19th century palace’s clock tower seems to have bore the largest brunt, yet, its glass windows, along with the Corinthian pillars keep the majesty breathing.
The next door Aina Mahal is a much more tragic tale of visible rubble and lost glory. The interiors, or what are left of them, are a peek into what would have been. The palaces of Kutch might not be gigantic when compared to their challengers in Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, but they too leave nothing to be desired when it comes to luxury. The music room, court room or the bedroom, all with their marble walls, intricate ivory and wooden doors, numerous lanterns, tiled floors and multitude of mirrors still elicit a wow or two. It is heartbreaking though, that the exteriors could not hold their ground much. Kutch surely makes you understand or see nature’s whims like no other place.
Vijay Vilas Palace
Camel rides are common in Rann
Left) L Local Kutchi food; ab bove) Kutchi folk artist
Shree Swaminarayan Temple