There is no place in India like Kachchh. Separated from Pakistan by the Great Rann (desert) in the North, and from the rest of Gujarat by the Little Rann in the East, Kachchh is virtually an island; its only road link to the Saurashtra mainland is the road from Surajbari which lies on the edge of the Little Rann It is a picturesque land with a great variety of eco-systems – land and water, plain and hill, desert and fertile land. Some 1.25m people, belonging to many races and religions, live in this remote district in splendid isolation – their quaint hamlets dotted across the land. It is a land that time has all but forgotten.
Bhuj the principal town of Kachchh, is a fascinating walled city lying in an amphitheatre of hills. One can spend hours in the narrow streets, lost in another world, or visit the palaces (Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal), Swaminarayan Temple, Cenotaphs, with their intricate stone carvings, and the Kachchh Museum.
Kachchh is an anthropologist’s delight. There are the Rabari pastoralists who decorate the insides of their mud-and-thatch huts with colourful ‘lippankam’ mudwork; the Bharwads in their exquisitely embroidered dresses and clothes; the Meghwals who decorate the exteriors of their mud huts with alluring patterns; the nomadic Jaths whose subgroups include the graceful Fakirani Jaths, living in huts made of coloured reeds, and the Dhanetah Jaths, whose women sport enormous gold nose-rings; the Ahir cowherds, the Sodha Rajputs, the Sammas, and many, many more.
These communities have their own distinctive handicraft traditions, each village with its speciality-embroidery, block printing, tie-dye fabrics, woven cotton and wool, very fine lacquer-work on cloth (Rogan), silver work on precious metal or enamelled silverware. And the remoteness of the land has ensured that the traditional crafts and skills have remained untouched by modern influences. One of the enduring images of a visit to Kachchh is that of a group of Jath women walking along the road in their brightly coloured and beautifully embroidered costumes.
The port of Mandvi, an ancient centre for constuction of country craft, and famous for its unspoilt beach; Narayan Sarovar, one of the five holy lakes of the Hindu faith; the 10th century Shiv Temple at Kera; and the pilgrim centre Koteshwar are some of the other interesting places in Kachchh.
In winter, during years when the conditions are right, vast colonies of flamingos, pelicans, and avocets descend on the Rann of Kachchh for breeding. The Little Rann is the home of the Indian Wild Ass, now a protected species.
No visit to Gujarat is complete until you have visited Kachchh.