Travel Trade Journal
Rann Utsav: changing landscape, changing lives
The Rann Utsav celebrated in the Great Rann of Kutch region of Gujarat kick-started on November 01, 2021, and will end on February 20, 2022. The wholesome package of nature’s splendor, fun, entertainment, adventure, leisure, sightseeing, and the cultural connect is waiting to be explored. Most important to mention is this scintillating festival has provided a platform to the local artisans, craftsmen, and vendors to come together to sell their products, setting an example of inclusive growth and social upliftment.
As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to prioritise the development of backward regions, he chose to promote tourism in Rann of Kutch not just by marketing the most unique feature of Rann - its salt desert which come alive with diamond-like brightness on moonlit nights but also its exquisite arts, crafts, music, dance and unique architecture and culture. The Gujarat government had three prime objectives such as creating economic opportunity, promoting the natural and cultural beauty of Kutch and lastly, to induce social development in the region that had hardly any infrastructure and population.
The Rann Utsav of Kutch, which started as a two-day event, now has transformed itself into a full-fledged flagship event of the Western state that spans four months from October to February every year. The Rann Utsav has brought with it spurring economic and employment opportunities to the region. The story of Rann of Kutch and Dhordo village, where the festival takes place, encapsulates the story of Gujarat’s bottom-up development model. Good road connectivity 24x7 power supply, internet facilities, etc. have opened up numerous new business opportunities for the local people. Today, the village has Wi-Fi connectivity and all those with educated children have computers and internet at home. Almost everyone in the village has a dish TV and clean water is supplied to the remotest village of the desert land. Dhordo and other villages such as Hodka are today’s world-acclaimed tourist destinations.
During this winter festival, Gujarat Tourism puts up hundreds of luxury tents to create a whole tent city that comes alive with a whole array of cultural festivitieslocal dances, music, mimes, and what have you. The nearby accommodations and tents are packed to capacity during that time. The demand far outstrips supply; that is why villagers have been encouraged to provide homestay facilities that give the tourists first-hand experience of traditional lifestyle and culture.
Soon the desert plains of Rann of Kutch transform into an oasis for domestic and foreign tourists. The festival of Rann comes alive in the evening with desert music and colorful dances. The Utsav, a carnival of music, dance and folklore, offers an excellent opportunity for tourists to indulge in leisure, pleasure, and merriment. Villagers also set up stalls to sell their crafts and other local products. Tourists come to see the unique architectural style of their homes too and also enjoy a meal or two.
Rann Utsav has plenty of good eating joints, so homestay hosts offer only morning tea and breakfast. This works out much cheaper for tourists as well.
During the full moon night in the winters, amid the awe-inspiring and contrasting landscape, the three to fourday final festive extravaganza brims with hospitality, vigour, and traditional flavour of the area. This carnival organized at the various locales within Kutch takes one around the natural grandiose while introducing the visitor to the indigenous cultural and ethnic flavour of the people. The shimmering night landscape because of the moon gives the enchanting moments of this fest, which feels like ‘Heaven on Earth’ during these days.
Not just the Rann, but the entire Kutch region has benefitted from this festival because when tourists come, they land at Bhuj, which has also developed plenty of tourist sites. Then they go to Mandvi for a day and then move on to Khawda and Dhordo, etc. Even the small street vendors have a stable source of income. The craftsmen sell their goods faster than they can produce because people come here in droves during the festival period. In Dhordo itself, over 25,000 people come to see the village every day, apart from those who stay over for the night.
The event has also enabled farmers to explore a wider market for their milk and farm products. The villagers of the Kutch district have also reaped rewards from the flourishing festival in their region. The literacy rate in the region has increased to an unprecedented high of ninety per cent, while expanding banking services has made their life easier to live. The winter escapade had created lakhs of employment opportunities for the local youth as well as the old.
The region is a paradise for handicrafts, handed down by the generations is keeping the traditions and prosperity alive. The artifact of Kutch has made its place in the global market. The main handicrafts are embroidery of ethnic style, patchwork, terracotta, pen knives and nutcrackers. Wood carving, mud-wall painting, silverwork, iron bell with a copper coating, seashell toys are the most famous handicrafts of Kutch. Kutch is worldrenowned for its mirrored embroideries. Most of these were traditionally stitched by village women, for themselves and their families, to create festivity, deities, generate wealth. Embroideries contributed to the substantial economic exchange required for marriage and fulfilled other social obligations which required gifts. Be it thread work or leather, every village has a different and unique style of making embroidery. Thus, the unique, exquisite embroidery, bandhani sarees, traditional ornaments and mirror work are some of the specialties of Kutch. Inherited by the bequest of craft, the Kutch people weave their dreams in different forms of embroidery.
Largely unexplored, infinitely exotic and full of unique experiences, the Little Rann of Kutch is a oneof-its-kind habitat in the world. After the monsoon, the whole place transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland. The only haven of the Asiatic wild ass and the favoured breeding ground of many rare bird species, the Little Rann, offers innumerable sights and unforgettable experiences. Through the chilling winter months, various locations in Kutch are visited by unique species of birds. For birding enthusiasts, nature lovers and tourists, Kutch is a haven that offers the experience of bird watching in all its glory. Alongside the animals and birds that make the region home, live the Agariya tribes’ people who harvest salt for a livelihood. ‘Agar’ in the local language means salt and the unique salt-pans are natural production units of salt. Visiting the Little Rann thus also provides an opportunity to see the salt harvesting process by the Agariyas. All these tourist experiences offer more sources of income for the local villagers who are into specialised occupations such as eco tourism, birdwatching trips and safari drives.
Thus, driving employment opportunities and business opportunities for local artists and artisans and common villagers, the Rann Utsav phenomenon is still paving in more opportunities for the Kutch economy and making it more kaleidoscopic.