Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise

Tripoto
12th Nov 2015

Keen Eyes Waiting for Sunset

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

A Spectacular Sunset at Mandvi Beach

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

The Big Bang Tower, Prag Mahal Palace

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

Panoramic View of Bhuj

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

State Highway to Great Rann

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

Road to Mandvi Beach

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

The Windfarm Beach

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

Endless White Desert

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

Joyful Pigeons

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

Pebble Throwing Competition

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

The Windfarm Beach

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

Something for the Office soft-board.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise by Vikas Singh

“I was never going to go if I waited for someone to come with me.”

~Laura, who instead of getting a job after graduation, started traveling the world. 

With this quote, I present to you my next travelogue. I hope this story finds you in best of health.

  • “It's like a fairy tale you've captured there.” ~Mary, Published Author
  • "I usually wishlist trips to read them later but I saw this one and I finished it till the end. It's indeed well written. Yes you should write more often." ~Shraddha, Teacher
  • Bhai awesome pics !!, Send these pics to g***@gmail.com please. These r awesome wallpapers ” ~Gopi
  • I don't have word to express the thrill n joy i am feeling right now just by reading your travel itinerary..very well narrated with lot of information..” ~Harsh Sharma

I'm overwhelmed by the response I got on my first published trip and I want to thank you. As an introvert, it’s tricky to craft a story by shaping experiences and emotions with words and decorating it with pictures. I overcame that fear and I seemed to have done okay. I have replied to each and every one of you personally and it felt fulfilling. Your kind comments inspired me to write again.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 1/74 by Vikas Singh

Before I begin, I wish to ease you into my story. Based on your valuable suggestions and feedback, I'll be narrating my travel imbibing most of them. To be entirely truthful, I was of the idea that the written piece itself would not steal the limelight but the photographs.

Boy, have I ever been so wrong.

You didn't just read my story, dissected it part by part and complimented me, corrected me and helped me improve. It doesn't matter if you follow me, comment on the story, say good-job on the pictures or even go through the entire post word by word. If this story puts even the faintest of smiles on your face or inspires you to travel or becomes a topic of discussion among your friends, my job here is done.

To remind you, this would be my second solo trip. I am less nervous now than I was the first time.

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.

You can get an itinerary and ways to reach any place by doing a simple search. What those search results might not share with you is a first person experience of that place. That's where this platform comes into picture, you and I come into picture.

Don't count the days, make those days count.

I am not a seasoned traveler but in my opinion, you should give every place a chance, who knows what it could lead to. If you stay biased to only a few places or objects of interest, you're missing a lot in life. Even if it doesn't go your way, someday you'll have a story to tell your grand-kids.

You want to be a cool grandpa/grandma? Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.

We have all read about the Rann of Kutch during our school days. Back then I didn't know that the place could hold so much of raw beauty given the main attraction is a vast endless desert in one corner of a district which mostly is barren. I did extensive research on the place and decided to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, Kutch was more than just the white desert.

Let me throw in a video wherein Big B is endorsing Gujarat Tourism - Inspired Much?

I read a few stories my fellow travelers have shared:

  • Kutch: Where Culture Awaits ~Omkar Pathak
  • Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat ~Aditi Kumar
  • Kutch Nahi Dekha To Kuch Nahi Dekha (If you haven't seen Kutch, then you haven't seen anything!) ~Krishan Ramani 

You guys have already done a fantastic job by covering all the major places.

I like to give credit where it's due.

I feared if I have anything new or extra to share with you. But then it dawned upon me that it doesn't matter.

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.

With this, I want you to accompany me to this short but an exciting trip.

Let's start the journey, you ready? Put on a light music and bear with me till the very end.

Day 1 - Ahmedabad to Bhuj

After spending Diwali with my dear grandmother, the next morning I wished her a Happy, Cheerful and a Healthy New Year and took off to Bhuj with her blessings.

After 7 comfortable hours in train I reached Bhuj. It is comparatively quiet and traffic somehow seemed manageable. I checked in into a hotel and grabbed an auto to show me around.

I was sleep deprived - as always. One of the perks when you work continuous nights. 

The auto driver seemed nice and helpful as he told me interesting facts about the city.

“In the unfortunate earthquake of 2001, I lost my parents and my elder brother. As my parents didn't leave me with much, I took upon the responsibility to support the family.

From the wedding of my younger siblings to the education of my deceased brother's kids, I saw to it all.”

What are you supposed to say in response. Sometimes, all you can do to help is listen. 

Anyway. first on the itinerary was the new Swami Narayan Temple.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 2/74 by Vikas Singh

Golden Domes resting on spotless white marble

The temple was similar to other Swami Narayan Temples I've been to as it was also largely made of white marble. The throne of Swaminarayan, doors and domes are made of gold.  It's smaller than Akshardham and the one in Delhi as well.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 3/74 by Vikas Singh

Is it a peacock? I didn't realize at the time of clicking this photograph.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 4/74 by Vikas Singh

Then we made way towards the Old Swami Narayan Temple which was quite colorful.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 5/74 by Vikas Singh

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 6/74 by Vikas Singh

A 100% cropped portion - notice the details. 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 7/74 by Vikas Singh

Hanuman Ji with his minions

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 8/74 by Vikas Singh

Even The Gods get hungry

Prior to this journey, I had read a lot about Darbargadh which enclosed Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal which was next on the list.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 9/74 by Vikas Singh

Darbargadh, or palace complex was built by Rao Shri khengarji and was developed into a palace complex over 300 years of history. Prag Mahal which is a part of Darbargadh was build in Neo-Gothic style. The building is built of mostly red-sandstone and white marble.

The main attraction of Prag Mahal Palace is the 150 feet high Big Bang Clock Tower that is an integral part of Bhuj's skyline. It provides an exhilarating view of the entire city.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 10/74 by Vikas Singh

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 11/74 by Vikas Singh

Trivia:

If the printed board outside the palace is to be believed, there are only two towers of this kind in India. The second one is in Mumbai.

 I reached there at 2 PM and it was scheduled to open at 3 PM. It gave me some time to relish the outsides of an architectural marvel that place was.

 It withstood the earthquake which left millions homeless and thousands dead.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 12/74 by Vikas Singh

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 13/74 by Vikas Singh

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 14/74 by Vikas Singh

Somewhat.

As I bought my ticket, I was tempted to take a separate paid pass for my camera. But looking at the crowd I changed my mind as there were high chances of it getting dismantled.

 Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 15/74 by Vikas Singh

I touched all the things on display without a shred of regret. Especially the stuffed heads of animals such as deers and hippopotamus. Yes, you read that right - a hippopotamus!

There were cooking utensils which could easily be mistaken for a solid bath tub.

The best as well as the worst part was climbing up the Big Bang Tower.

Have you seen “Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar” from the film Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, featuring Dev Anand & Nutan? The song has been beautifully choreographed wherein Dev Anand tries to woo her while walking down the Minar.

The path was not any different but even more cramped. Tech guys - it only supports simplex mode of communication. But as you are well aware that impatient public was trying to climb up and the rest were trying to get down at the same time.

The view from up top is good. One can even say above average. No high rises, not too much of noise and cool breeze.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 16/74 by Vikas Singh

For a better view of the panorama images - bit.ly/PristineKutch

Aaina Mahal and Kutch Museum were closed due to the occasion of New Year, so I decided to visit them later in my stay.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 17/74 by Vikas Singh

The last spot left for the day was Bhujia Hill. Bhuj has been named after Bhujia hill on which Bhujia Fort rests. Bhujia Hill itself derives its name from the snake deity Bhujanga. The fort was constructed to secure the city from raiders.

Bhujanga > Bhujia Hill > Bhuj

The fort gives a mesmerizing panoramic view of the city.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 18/74 by Vikas Singh

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 19/74 by Vikas Singh

Great Wall of Bhuj

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 20/74 by Vikas Singh

For a better view of the panorama images - bit.ly/PristineKutch

At one of the corners of the fort, there is a temple dedicated to Bhujang Nag.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 21/74 by Vikas Singh

Bhujang Nag Temple Dominating Bhuj's Skyline

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 22/74 by Vikas Singh

Smritivan Earthquake Memorial

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 23/74 by Vikas Singh

My first impression of this place was that it looked like an alien settlement. 

On asking the locals about what the construction was all about, they told me it is an upcoming memorial to commemorate the death of ~14,000 people during the massive earthquake on Jan 26, 2001. 

They didn't fail to mention Mr. Modi who gave the green signal for the same.

I e-mailed Rajeev Kathpalia, one of the architects behind this project. He along with P.V. Doshi made a presentation on the project before Mr Narendra Modi, Mrs Anandiben Patel among other dignitaries. He invited me for a cup of tea as I was interested to know more about the project.

It had been ages since I've had a meaningful conversation with a learned person. I'll be writing a short article on our discussion which happened over a cup of tea. 

The article will be posted on Medium soon - medium.com/@vikas891

Our prayers are with the victims and may they rest in peace.

It has been 14 years but after interacting with people, I got to know that the horrific memories are still crystal clear in the minds of those people who lost their loved ones.

Some wounds are so deep for even time to heal.

As I explored the different vantage points the place had to offer, I met these zealous bunch of kids on one of them.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 24/74 by Vikas Singh

Bhaiya, hamari photo kheencho.” - Bro, please click a picture of us.

“Aapki Facebook ID kya hai? Aap Facebook par daalna is picture ko, hum Like denge.”

Please put this picture on Facebook, we'll hit Like.

Out of these voices, two of them emerged with a question which went like this, “Bhaiya, aap Hindu ho ya Musalmaan.”

Bro, are you a Hindu or a Muslim?

I was shocked if not surprised. The kids were barely in their early-teens and I did not have a response at once. I stared at their curious eyes and wondered what could pave way for a question like this. I let it slide thinking it to be an innocent question but we really do not want an upbringing which would instill these thoughts from such a tender age.I conversed with them for a while and started my descent.

After a short while, I stumbled upon a beautiful Punjabi couple.

There is no escape from Gujaratis, Biharis and Sardars.

 Kiddan, paaji? - How are you?

“Bas vadiyan, tussi sunao.” - I'm good, how about you?

I'm alright, just tired. I thought I should say Hi as the most ravishing 4 years of my life were spent in Jalandhar, Punjab.

"Oh! That's great to hear. She's from Nakodar - a stone's throw from Jalandhar.”, he replied pointing towards her. 

Oh, I have a couple friends from there.

We talked for a couple minutes and I resumed walking so as to not feel imposed. still had a few hundred meters to go before I reached base when a voice emerged.

Hey would it be cool if I could borrow a sip of water? I forgot to bring and she's thirsty.”

Sardarji had caught up to me for a small favor to which I gladly obliged.

Yes, of course.

TIP - The easiest way to get sick is via water. Keep potable water on you at all times when you are travelling.

As he was giving me back the rest of what was left, I requested him to keep it. When he resisted I asked him to keep it for her.

Now he had to oblige. I giggled inside.

I was not disappointed. The city sprung back on its feet pretty well considering the magnitude of 2001 episode.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 25/74 by Vikas Singh

First of many beautiful sunsets I experienced during my stay here

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 26/74 by Vikas Singh

For a better view of the panorama images - bit.ly/PristineKutch

It has become a habit for me to take an early dinner during my trips. It enables me to rest for a while before I stroll the city with a happy tummy.

For Vegetarians, Hotel Annapurna is one decent hotel where you could take your lunch or dinner. They offer Gujarati as well as Punjabi cuisines.

After a moderate dinner, I strolled the streets of Bhuj and stumbled upon Ekta Tea House. The tea was pretty good but I will try to find the Oscar Winning entry during my time here.  

I wrote bits and pieces of this story sitting there. The owner also gave me a basic understanding of Kutchi(and a hint of Sindhi), their local language.

The day after was going to be the day I had craved for since childhood. The pictures of the White Desert in our textbooks left an impression so deep that this place had to be seen in all its raw glory.

Day 2 - Kala Dungar and The Great White Desert

I reached M. K. Auto sharp at 10 AM to rent a bike. As I had a camera and some other gear as well, I chose an Activa as it gave me ample place to keep them.

I rode towards Bhirandiara, from where two roads diverged - one towards Kala Dungar and the other towards White Rann.

Bhuj → 50 KM → Bhirandiara

Great White Desert ← 34 km  ←  Bhirandiara → 38 km → Kala Dungar

Kala Dungar translates into Black Hills. It is the highest point in Kutch - 462 m above sea level. It is a place from where you can get a complete view of Great Rann of Kutch.

The roads were well-built and I didn't have much trouble at 70-80 Kmph.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 27/74 by Vikas Singh

For a better view of the panorama images - bit.ly/PristineKutch

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 28/74 by Vikas Singh

Don't tell me what to do.

TIP - If you can ride, I'll say go for a bike as the ride from Bhuj - Kala Dungar - White Desert will be a memory you'll cherish forever.

I spotted a deer mother-son duo but they disappeared before I could take a picture. It was the first time I saw them in their natural habitat and it was an amazing feeling.

Rest of the journey presented me with sheep and cattle.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 29/74 by Vikas Singh

I've never seen a more effective speed-breaker. If only we could team them basic traffic rules.

TIP - Don't be a hero, we have enough guarding our borders. Wear your helmets at all times. It will protect you from dust and insects which are at large.

As I approached the foothills, I could see a trail of vehicles lined up in a heavy jam. As it turns out, it was an everyday story as the entire road upto the top in a cramped one-way.

I was able to maneuver the snail trail in under an hour. I'm grateful for Ahmedabad’s traffic for all the practice.

The place was rackety. Since this place is very close to the India-Pakistan Border, there is an army post and a lot of tourists were posing with our veterans.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 30/74 by Vikas Singh

But the view is definitely worth it. 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 31/74 by Vikas Singh

Isn't it exciting to know that you're only a paragliding stint away from Pakistan?

Camels added to the beauty of the dungar. It is the highest point of Kutch which promises a groggy view of the Indo-Pak Border.

Dattatreya Temple is another famous attraction at Kala Dungar. It’s a 400-year-old temple dedicated to Dattatreya who is considered to be an incarnation of the three Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, also known as Trimurti.

A trip to Kala Dungar could easily eat up your day as the traffic jam is imminent any time of the year. If you're with friends and have an awful amount of time, it's a good one time visit.

TIP - Leave early morning before sunrise.

When I was riding downhill after paying my respects, I noticed an interesting phenomenon, even without the ignition turned off, my vehicle was hurling at a speed of 80 kmph! No, the speed was way higher even after taking under considering the angle of elevation of the road.

This phenomenon was reported to the collector who got the issue investigated. It turned out that there was nothing magnetic or any other explanation other than the steep slope. They even released a Field Investigation Report. The investigation team consisted of prominent people from IIT-K, ISR-Gandhinagar and L.D. Engineering College.

I do not completely agree. There is definitely something fishy about those roads.

Without further ado, I proceeded towards Bhirandiara from where the second road lead to the Dhordo/Great White Desert.

The roads were scenic as ever. It almost made me miss the BRO Roads surrounding Jaisalmer.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 32/74 by Vikas Singh  

When I was nearing the place, I saw around 4-5 resorts which had almost traditional huts and promised a homely stay.

The preparations for Rann Utsav were in full swing as they were readying up tents and huts for guests. There is an BSF checkpost 1.5 km before the desert. They ask you for your ID before entering the desert.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 33/74 by Vikas Singh

You can book the tents in advance from their official site before Rann Utsav

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 34/74 by Vikas Singh

TIP - Keep an Original Address Proof and it's copy with you at all times. Remember to take your ID back when you return.

Ten steps into the place and I felt like I've reached the sister city of Ahmedabad. People from all parts of Gujarat were there to witness the white marvel. Interestingly, I didn't spot any foreign tourist which was a turn off.

Amitabh Bachchan needs to work harder on this front.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 35/74 by Vikas Singh

Behold

As I made my way deeper into the desert, my tiny eyes and an average IQ mind were not able to soak all the raw natural beauty at once. 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 36/74 by Vikas Singh

There is a rocky pavement built for tourists which extends until the large water body.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 37/74 by Vikas Singh

Gujarat Ka Namak

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 38/74 by Vikas Singh

I wondered if this was our very own Gujarati Dead Sea. I felt like pushing a noisy stranger into it to see if that was true.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 39/74 by Vikas Singh

For a better view of the panorama images - bit.ly/PristineKutch

As it had rained a lot in Kutch during monsoon, walkability was limited to certain areas. I found myself sinking at one such place and I carefully made my way back.

 Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 40/74 by Vikas Singh

It looks like this place has just survived a nuclear holocaust

TIP - Plan your trip by making sure if that season permits you endless walks on the desert under a magnificent full moon.

A major reason for me to travel here not during Rann Utsav was that I wanted to experience this place in its natural and unadulterated form.

Well that didn't turn out well.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 41/74 by Vikas Singh

The construction around this area is in full swing. 

It seems that they are building an enclosure for this little lake which contains salt deposits. As currently the pavement is not guarded, it's easier to slip into - 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 42/74 by Vikas Singh

The water isn't too deep but for kids, it's dangerous to leave it unguarded. 

Adding to my misery, a Bhojpuri film was being shot there. 

The public went gaga. From one side the director was yelling the instructions and from the other, the actress was shushing the public in order to hear him. The actor seemed to be lost in his own world.

It was the second time in my life when this happened out of the blue. I was at the Golden Temple in Amritsar when Shah Rukh Khan was there with Anushka for Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.

I am sorry to disappoint my readers for the lack of pictures showing people in mid-air with a background of the desert. If anyone attempted that, the wet ground would have made sure it was their last jump.

The camels would have had the last laugh.

I imagined what that place would look like without a single living being. Let me tell you - scary but badass.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 43/74 by Vikas Singh

The sky kissed the desert in the distant horizon. Not a bad place to jump in with a kayak if your hobbies include discovering neighborhood countries.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 44/74 by Vikas Singh

I met this joyful localite who allowed me to click a picture with his beautiful horse. 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 45/74 by Vikas Singh

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 46/74 by Vikas Singh

One last picture, I promise. 

I wanted to stay the night in order to capture a beautiful sunrise but the horizon was too cloudy and my better judgement said that the next morning would be nothing different. Again, my options to stay the night would be in the resorts 6-10 km away as the adjacent residential tents would only be allotted during Rann Utsav.

This place deserves a second visit with people you can bear to travel with. OR only because perspective photography needs helping hands. Whatever floats your goat.

As the horizon was cloudy, the place didn't give a beautiful sunset so I decided it was to turn around and go off road.

As soon as I saw a motorable road, I got off the asphalt and went on for a kilometre. The place was eerily calm where I sat for a while watching the sun disappear into the trees and subsequently, clouds.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 47/74 by Vikas Singh

This Is What It Feels Like - AVB

It felt great to break from the city and experience a new level of peaceful bliss.

As it was getting dark and was a good distance still to be covered back to the city, I headed back to the hotel.

TIP - Either spend the night in/around the Desert or not ride/drive during dark hours back to Bhuj.

Those 50 km never seemed to end. But after a careful and non-negligent riding, I reached Bhuj safely where I had a late dinner and planned my onward journey.

Day 3 - Mandvi

0600 Hours.

The most effective alarm clock known to mankind - wailing babies.

A combination of multiple joint families was residing in the room adjacent to mine. It was a baby market. I tried to sleep for a little while but I gave up.

It was a blessing in disguise. The sun hadn't risen and it gave me an opportunity to find a peaceful place to soak in the early morning sun.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 48/74 by Vikas Singh

Bhuj → 50 KM → Mandvi

Mandvi is in the opposite direction of the Great White Desert from Bhuj.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 49/74 by Vikas Singh

Scenic Ride to Mandvi

After 10 km on the road, I stopped for a tea. He charged Rs 6 for a single cup but I gave the old guy a ten rupee note.

I've had worse tea at much higher prices.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 50/74 by Vikas Singh

Ilahi - YJHD

The rest of the journey was anything but boring.

I missed a crucial turn which lead to Mandvi and stumbled upon this little Lake 4 km from the main city.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 51/74 by Vikas Singh

Watch A Beautiful Slow-Motion Video here - instagram.com/vikas891

Mandvi is a small city and it houses a 400-year-old ship building industry. As you enter the city, you will be able to see ships of all sizes along the bay area.

I finally reached Mandvi Beach, also known as the Wind Farms Beach.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 52/74 by Vikas Singh

This is why.

Ah, it has been so long that I forgot how it looks like, feels like to see a vast water body gently brushing your feet.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 53/74 by Vikas Singh

As soon I laid eyes on the amount of people there, a small part of me drowned. Without losing hope, I removed my shoes and started walking barefoot on the sides.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 54/74 by Vikas Singh

This feeling is second to none.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 55/74 by Vikas Singh

After walking for a few kilometers away from the main area, there was not a single living soul around. I could hear the sound of every wave making its way towards me.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 56/74 by Vikas Singh

If you want to know what it feels like, watch a short video shot here at instagram.com/vikas891

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 57/74 by Vikas Singh

Birdie checked in at Mandvi Beach with Angie and 6 others. 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 58/74 by Vikas Singh

Barbie was fond of swimming against the waves, Angela - meh, not so much. "I'm outta here."

After walking even further, I came across few dogs which were sort of guarding the area that followed. I didn't want to give their hospitality a chance and sat at a distance from them.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 59/74 by Vikas Singh

I tried to find more about these handicrafts placed at a lot of places across the beach. I couldn't find any information on the internet. If you know, please let me know.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 60/74 by Vikas Singh

A man's gotta eat and travel. Culturally and Spiritually Sophosticated Kutch. 

You'll curse your school, college, university, job only to find yourself missing it down the line. Live every moment. I'm not asking you to refrain from complaining - complain - it's your birthright. It does feel good. But squeeze every last drop of good that comes out of whatever is thrown at you. 

It had been 4 hours and the sunset was not due for another 3 hours. I forgot about the famous Vijay Vilas Palace.

 Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 61/74 by Vikas Singh

If you think this must be like every other palace you’ve been to, think again. This royal abode constructed in 1920, stands in the middle of beautiful gardens, fountains and has a private beach. It isn’t accessible from Mandvi Beach.

The Arabian Sea kisses the palace!

Almost every single localite knows by heart that Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was shot here.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 62/74 by Vikas Singh

Mahal-ception

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 63/74 by Vikas Singh

I fled back towards Mandvi to witness a beautiful sunset of which I’d only seen pictures.  

There was overpriced coconut water, children yelling at the top of their lungs, jolly camels quietly judging people with their half shut eyes and a glorious vista of the Arabian Sea or Gulf of Kutch.  

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 64/74 by Vikas Singh

Every sunset is beautiful, be it down a snow covered valley, at a beautiful beach or the one that takes place everyday in your town.

I have read that landscape photography is one of the toughest traits to master. I experienced exactly what the tales said.

Few of the challenges:

  • You have to canvas the place extensively to compose a great image.
  • Take a note of time and weather conditions prior to going on a shoot.
  • The waiting game.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 65/74 by Vikas Singh

My gear was attracting a lot of attention.

“So it's your job?”

I wish! I'm an Information Security Professional.

“That sounds hard. I don't have much knowledge about this field.”

Believe me, even I don't.

I conversed with the friendly localite for a few minutes after which he departed wishing me luck. It took hours for the sun to almost reach the horizon but only minutes to duck down the horizon hence trolling me in the process!

Not cool, sun. Not cool at all!

But I was ready to capture him in all its glory.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 66/74 by Vikas Singh

It could've been better. It was my first attempt at capturing a sunset so I couldn't find just the right foreground in time. 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 67/74 by Vikas Singh  

The breathtaking scenery was enough to get me going till I pack my bags for the next trip

A 360 Degree View of the Sunset

After clicking a few pictures, I ran towards my vehicle as if I was chased by someone whom I owed money. I had to cover a good 50 km back to Bhuj.

TIP - If you want the luxury to witness the sunset, prefer to travel in a bus or a car back to Bhuj. Even if you have night vision goggles and a promising career in Moto GP, you have slim chances to reach Bhuj in one piece.

In the whole 50 km that I covered at a decent pace, I barely saw more than 4-5 two wheelers. It was really risky and a bad decision on my part but I made it back safely.

The day after was when I had to return home.

After returning the vehicle, I had a light dinner after which I left for the same tea-stall where I wrote bits and pieces to share with you.

Day 4 - Kutch Museum and Aaina Mahal

I reached Kutch Museum moments before it opened at 10 AM. The Kutch Museum is the oldest museum in whole of Gujarat.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 68/74 by Vikas Singh

The museum is an immaculate montage of cultural diversity that gives Kutch it’s identity. You can observe and learn about the historical significance of once a princely state and it’s rich folk traditions.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 69/74 by Vikas Singh  

From a rare collection of ancient coins to stone inscriptions, this place offers everything that we have only seen in textbooks and Google Image Searches.

The first floor has a rich collection of embroideries, paintings and idols.

Girls, no you can’t go on a shopping spree here.

This wasn’t the first museum I had visited, but it sure was the one which left the largest impact and left me wanting for more.

Aren’t museums supposed to be plain-old and boring? 

I left the museum and stood gazing at the Hamirsar Lake which oversees the museum.

TIP - Try Dabeli - A local food which has its origins in Kutch. Imagine a Vada-Paav(Double Bread plus deep fried potato patty) minus Vada plus mixed boiled potato with assorted spices.

Aaina Mahal - Hall of Mirrors

Aaina Mahal was a 10 minute walk from the lake adjacent to Prag Mahal Palace.  When I bought the ticket and was about to enter the palace, it was like entering into a Perkins’ Tent.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 70/74 by Vikas Singh

Not a Harry Potter fan? It’s a magical tent which is smaller in size but as soon as you enter it, it’s no smaller than a full-blown castle!

The walls of the palace are made of white marble and you can notice mirrors almost at every nook and corner of the palace. It has been carefully decorated with intricate details.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 71/74 by Vikas Singh

Remember to crane your neck only to be astonished by this intricate yet symmetrical marvel of a ceiling.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 72/74 by Vikas Singh

Calligraphy enthusiasts, assemble.

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 73/74 by Vikas Singh

These places were such that even if someone finds history even the remotest bit of boring, will be forced to change his opinion.

Outside the palace, there are few shops where you can shop for ethnic wear which have impressive embroidery work done on them. 

Photo of Kutch – A Pristine Cultural Paradise 74/74 by Vikas Singh

Gosh! What a fulfilling trip this has been.

Waiter! Repeat my order. Kutch - 3 Shots, With Salt on the Edges.

Sometimes pictures don't do justice and that's why we resort to people who write about their experiences. Words bring a picture into life if done correctly, and come to think of it - there is no correct way. Everyone has their own unique way and it's flawless.

During weekends, I barely get off the couch and eat junk food all day. My eyes are either fixated on a laptop, TV, mobile phone or a book.

Okay, I was lying. It has been ages since I touched a book. 

Socializing is kept to a bare minimum and messages are cautiously ignored to avoid gatherings. I am sure a lot of you can relate to this.

But for me, all of that changes when I travel.

It's nothing short of magic that everything changes in a jiffy when you're doing something you love, with passion. Be it anything - watching birds, painting, learning an instrument or helping someone in need. Don't spend your entire life finding that purpose, craft one for yourself one and do everything in your power to sustain it.

You'll be amazed to discover that you can be so much all at once.

Not every trip you take might be epic, but it will broaden your horizon in ways you can't imagine. The liberating experience of meeting new people will become a part of your memories for years to come.

Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

Live the life people write novels about.

All the pictures have been taken with a Canon 600D with a 50mm F1.8 and my portable heater - OnePlus 2

So, how was it? Let me know!

Parting Notes:

  • I couldn't cover Dholavira, but I want you to experience the ancient remnants of Harappan Civilization. The road through the Rann is majestic. I have also heard a lot about the Wild Ass Sanctuary there, so that could be a great place to explore.
  • The people of Kutch extended a warm welcome and I never felt an outsider for a moment. From every tea-stall owner to road-side hawkers who on asking directions helped me out with enthusiasm. I thank every one from the bottom of my heart.
  • As the water hasn't dried up completely, it was difficult to roam deeper inside the desert. No fixed time of the year when the water dries up, according to the locals. So, make a few calls before planning a trip to Kutch.
  • SHOP! Make sure you take something back for your better half, parents or we-are-just-friends-kay.

See you when I see you. ~Daniel Ocean

Panoramic View of Bhuj

Photo of Bhujia Fort Road, Bhujio Dungar, Bhuj, Gujarat, India by Vikas Singh

A Spectacular Sunset at Mandvi Beach

Photo of Mandvi Beach, Mandvi Rural, Gujarat, India by Vikas Singh

The Windfarm Beach

Photo of Mandvi Beach, Mandvi Rural, Gujarat, India by Vikas Singh

Keen Eyes Waiting for Sunset

Photo of Mandvi Beach, Mandvi Rural, Gujarat, India by Vikas Singh

The Big Bang Tower, Prag Mahal Palace

Photo of Pragmahal Palace, Old Dhatia Falia, Bhuj, Gujarat, India by Vikas Singh

Endless White Desert

Photo of Great Rann of Kutch, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Vikas Singh

Pebble Throwing Competition

Photo of Great Rann of Kutch, Kutch, Gujarat, India by Vikas Singh
2 Comment(s)
Sort by:
And you did it once again ! How can you write so well that one can simply not take their eyes off and read on and on ! Such a beautifully described journey. Emo indeed ;)
Wed 11 25 15, 05:50 · Reply (1) · Report
aapka shukriya, memsaab!
Fri 11 27 15, 06:14 · Report
Great to see you following your passion Vikas! Kudos!
Thu 11 19 15, 23:57 · Reply (1) · Report
oh come on seriously
Fri 11 20 15, 00:14 · Report