"Kutch Nahi Dekha, Toh Kuch Nahi Dekha"
While you may or may not be familiar with the magnificent festival that is orchestrated every year on the stunning pristine white salt marshland of Rann of Kutch, the above line narrated in the resonant baritone of Amitabh Bachhan's voice is a memory harboured by most Indians. Well, it turns out he wasn't far from the truth when he claimed that if you haven't experienced Rann of Kutchh yet, you haven't really seen much at all.
Image Courtesy - Rann Utsav Official Site
What Is Rann Utsav?
The Rann Mahotsav or Rann Festival is a grandiose jamboree organised by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited that celebrates the sheer magnificence of life on the geographically unique and aesthetically astonishing Rann of Kutch. With a total duration spanning a few months, the Rann Festival on the breathtaking white dessert offers every kind of riveting experience you can possibly expect. From wondrous natural beauty to flamboyant displays of art and culture, indigenous prismatic handicrafts to extraordinary performances, diverse and delectable delicacies to an abundance of scenic vistas to explore, Rann Utsav promises an exhaustive inventory of incredible encounters that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
Image Courtesy - Rann Utsav Official Website
Where Is Rann Utsav Held?
The grandiosity of the Rann Mahotsav exceeds most expectations. Starting in Bhuj, the festival blankets the entire district in the fervour of celebrations. The grand finale is put up in the foremost location of tent city, which is close to the small village of Dordho. This area is teeming with over 400 AC as well as non-AC tents. The village of Dordho is easily accessible from Bhuj airport which is at a distance of 86 KMs.
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About The Territory
Located in the vast arid stretch of the Thar Desert in the state of Gujarat, the geographic marvel of the Rann of Kutch is a seasonal marshy salt dessert. The flatbeds of stunning white sand are spread across the horizon, offering scintillating panoramic sights. The entirety of the terrain of Rann of Kutch stays submerged in water until a few weeks before the beginning of the festival, following which the area comes alive with bustling energy and the vigour to rejoice. Picture miles of pristine chalky sand canopied by nothing but starking blue skies. That is the view your sore eyes will be greeted with if you find yourself amidst the sweeping white salt flats of Rann of Kutch. The inhabitants of Kutch are called Kutchhi and the natives speak the local language with the same name.
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When Does Rann Utsav Start?
The Rann Utsav is organised for a period of four months every year during the season of winter. According to Rann Utsav 2019 dates, the festival is expected to begin on the 28th of October and go on till 23rd February 2020.
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Rann Utsav 2019-2020 - A Guide For Travellers
Things To Do
The annual Rann Utsav is a cultural marvel replete with stimulating activities to engage oneself in. Some of the things you can put on your to-do list whilst visiting are:
1. Watch The Full Moon
One of the most publicised experiences at the Rann Utsav is an astounding encounter with the full moon over the sweeping white grounds. The illuminance of the lamp of heaven reflecting upon the expansive pristine sand gives way to a bone-chilling vision that will stay in your system for ages to come. Disconnect from the organised chaos of modern life, and spend some time in serene solace watching the full moon dance across the white desert.
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2. Shop Till You Drop
The Rann Festival is akin to paradise for all shopaholics bored of the usual high fashion city stores. The fair has a myriad of shops and stalls adorned with homegrown artefacts carefully curated by skilled local artisans. Keep an eye out for some splendid artwork, handcrafted Gujrati articles, bandhani dresses, dupattas and sarees, tasteful leather products, intricate Kutchi embroidery, stately silverware and gorgeous ornaments and jewellery. Some of the best markets in the area include: Khamir Crafts Store in Bhuj, Roopalee Handicrafts, Rainbow Textiles in Ganghara, Shrujan-threads of life, Aslam’s collection on the outskirts of Bhuj and the famous art villages of Kutch district such as Bhujodi, Dhamkada, Nirona and Bhachau.
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3. Indulge In Mouth-Watering Delicacies
Contrary to what Three Idiots led you to believe, the Gujrati food palette is much more than heavy weapon like names. If you are visiting Rann Utsav this year, prepare for a sensory overload at the hands of appetising food options. In the tent city where the main festival is staged, there are two enormous dining halls serving delectable Kutchi cuisine. In addition, there are plenty of food stalls dispersed across the area which aim to invigorate your taste buds. Take a gander at the local staple food such as bajra na rotla with buttermilk, provincial flavoursome chaats and Gujrati snacks and thalis.
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4. Be Adventurous
If you identify as an adventure junkie and are looking for activities you can engage in, the Rann Utsav has you covered. You can choose to ride an ATV across the picturesque landscape of Kutch desert, chasing the sunset and feeling the wind rustle past your face. Or you can opt for paramotoring which will allow you a bird's eye view of the wonderful vistas. For those looking for relatively grounded adventure activities, you can go for a desert safari or a camel ride!
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5. Get Enthralled By Captivating Cultural Performances
If you are yearning for a holistic local experience, the Rann Utsav also offers some enchanting performances. The cultural fiesta hosting several adept folk artists from all corners of Gujarat is an experiential mandate. They perform all over the region and you can witness these phenomenal acts while lounging in front of a desert bonfire. Doesn't get dreamier than this!
Image Courtesy - Rann Otsav Book
6. Scour The Shores Of Mandvi Beach
For a serene escapade, you can visit the breathtaking Mandvi beach, located at a distance of 60 KMs from Bhuj. Exclusively accessible by Rann Utsav Tent City guests, Mandvi beach is a tranquil seashore, known for picturesque sunsets, camping and watersports. You can plan a day-long visit to this immaculate beach and spend hours gazing at the meeting point of crisp blue waters and a striking horizon.
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7. Go Sightseeing At Local Destinations
While Rann Mahotsav at Tent City captures the essence of your culturally rich experience at Rann of Kutch, the district of Kutch has much more in store! The best places you can go for sightseeing in, include: Vijaya Vilas Palace, Kala Dungar, Kutch museum, the villages of Bhirandiyra, Khavda, Gandghi-Nugam, Hodka and the bountiful Kutch wildlife at Narayan Sarovar.
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What To Carry
The Rann Utsav is a winter festival in the middle of a desert. Expect sweltering mornings and freezing nights. The temperature drops significantly after dark, so remember to carry your woollens! It is advisable to carry water and emergency supplies. Stock up on essential medicines, plenty of cash and necessary travel commodities. Remember to carry photocopies as well as originals of ID cards.
Obtaining Official Permission To Enter Kutch
The proximity of the desert to the Pakistani border makes it a sensitive area. You will need to obtain official permission in order to enter the area. Written permission can be obtained on the way at the Bhirandiyara village which falls at a distance of about 60 KMs from Bhuj. The cost of the permit is Rs 100 for an individual and Rs 50 for a car. You can also procure permission from the Gujarat Police DSP office in Bhuj but the building stays shut on Sundays and every second and fourth Saturday. At the police check posts, you will be asked for an official ID (voter's ID card, drivers license, passport). Carrying photocopies as well as originals of your ID card is an absolute mandate, failing to do which you won't be able to enter the premises.
Where To Stay
Ideally, it is highly recommended that you stay in Rann Utsav Tent City if you are visiting Kutch for Rann Festival. This area where the primary festival happens is replete with well-maintained AC and Non-AC Rat Utsav tents equipped with all modern facilities including round the clock supply of warm water and room heaters. If you are staying in Tent City, you will also have access to a number of exclusive features, amenities and experiences.
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However, if for some reason, you choose not to stay in Tent City, there are a number of other options available as well. The best stay options include Rann Village Resort, Regenta Resort Bhuj, Radisson Hotel Kandla, Shaam-E-Sarhad Village Resort etc. For more affordable alternatives, you can check out the accommodation facilities in nearby villages. There are ethnic huts called Bunga that you can opt for, or decide on comfortable GTDC hotels. If you want to experience the full flavour of Rann Mahotsav without putting up in Tent City, the Gateway to Rann Resort is in closest possible proximity to the main area.
How To Reach Rann Utsav
For convenient travel: The closest airport is located in Bhuj so for air travel, you will need to reserve tickets till there. Beyond Bhuj, you will have to arrange for transport in the form of cabs or rental cars.
For affordable travel: There are a number of trains that you can travel in to reach Kutch. The Kutch Express leaves from Mumbai and goes up to Gandhinagar, from where you will have to reach the destination by road. You can also book a direct train to Bhuj.
For cheap travel: There are a hoard of buses available including both government and private vehicles. You can also easily arrange for rental taxis.
Rann Utsav 2019 Packages
There are a number of Rann Utsav packages that are available on Gujrat Tourism's official website for Rann Utsav. The package prices vary on the basis of days of travel (1 Night 2 Days/ 2 Night 3 Days/ 3 Night 4 Days/ Special Days). You can pick from premium tents, deluxe AC swiss cottages and non-AC cottages. Most of these can be availed on a twin sharing basis with an additional fee for extra persons. A tax rate of 18% GST will be applicable.
Forget-Me-Nots For First Time Travellers
- Remember to finalise all your bookings well in advance. Keep a buffer period of 2 months, as there is a high demand and limited availability of accommodation in Rann Utsav tent city.
- During the Rann Utsav period, the availability of AC in your tent won't make much of a difference. The temperature inside the tents tends to be cooler than the dry heat outside during day-time. At night, it gets considerably cold and you will be provided with a heater to keep yourself warm.
- No matter what, remember to carry your IDs. Without obtaining the government pass you won't be allowed to enter Kutch which will hinder all your plans.
- In order to avoid the tremendous rush during inauguration period, it is advisable to reach early at Bhuj station from where your pick-up will be arranged. Private taxis are your best bet for comfortable travel.
- Bookings in November and February will be slightly less expensive so try to snatch those up if you can.
- To gain the authentic Rann Utsav experience, it is highly recommended that you try to stay in tent city at least for one night. For the remaining trip, you can look for alternative accommodation arrangements.
- Carry sunglasses to protect your eyes from the blazing sun during the day, and an extra sleeping bag to park and stargaze wherever you please.
- Lastly, while you are there, remember to stay mindful of your surroundings at all time. Pay close attention to the ongoing announcements which are delivered in Hindi and Gujrati.
The Rann Utsav is an extraordinary experience, the splendour of which remains unparalleled. The vibrant displays of culture and heritage on the unremitting expanse of the pristine salt desert, the striking vistas and the myriad of activities for travellers make the Rann Utsav 2019 an inviolable entry on any traveller's bucket list. The overall budget for this trip might come out to be slightly steeper than your standard hill-station vacation, but the magnitude of the beauty and culture that awaits you here s well worth it.
Q. What is the best time to visit Rann of Katch?
A. Although one can make a trip to Kutch any time during the year, the best time to visit is the period between the months of November to February. The desert tends to get scorching hot during summers making travel uncomfortable and stifling. Hence the winter months are most conducive. In addition, food, water and other essentials are widely available only during these months. During summer, procuring necessities might be challenging.
Q. Is Rann Utsav expensive? Is it worth the money?
A. Rann Utsav is a grand affair and thus, it stands to reason that expenditure will be relatively high especially when you compare it to run of the mill hill-station trips. However, when it comes to rich cultural displays, gorgeous sights and over-arching quality of experience, the former is in a league of its own. So yes, Rann Utsav is definitely worth it.
Q. Is Rann Utsav safe for women travellers?
A. Absolutely. The management devotes considerable time, attention and effort to ensure that you feel safe and comfortable at all times. Kutch, in general, is a very safe place and you can rest assured.
Q. How do I visit Rann Utsav with a limited budget?
A. Whilst a trip to Rann Utsav is infamous for being relatively pricey, there are ways to minimise your costs as well. For instance, you can exclusively travel in government buses and group taxis. You can also opt for cheaper accommodation in nearby villages. Bear in mind that bookings for November and February tend to be cheaper, so make your reservations accordingly.
Q. What happens during Rann Festival?
A. Rann Utsav is a winter jamboree celebrating culture, art, music, dance and heritage. You will have opportunities to explore the stunning terrain, go for adventurous endeavours, witness magnificent cultural performances, splurge on indigenous art and craft, satiate your taste buds with scrumptious Gujrati food and much, much more.
Q. Can I take my children along?
A. Yes, you can. Make reservations accordingly and plan for some fun activities to keep the kids engaged.
Q. Is alcohol available during Rann Utsav?
A. Uh, no. Alcohol is not (ethically and legally) available in Gujrat, ever. It is a dry state. Please do not carry alcohol or any illicit substances as there is a major probability of getting kicked out if you are caught.