The White Desert

Madhavi Agarwal, the president of Deepshikha Mahila Club

Madhavi Agarwal, the president of Deepshikha Mahila Club, took her club’s members on a trip to the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. The idea behind the trip was for the women from the club to explore the region and experience the salt desert, a unique environment spread across 7,500 square km from India to Pakistan. Also on the agenda was participation in the Rann Mahotsav, a celebration of culture, music and dance that attracts over 10,000 people from across the world.
 
In early January, a group of 28 people landed at Bhuj airport in Gujarat eager to be part of Rann Mahotsav and explore the great Rann of Kutch. It was an early morning flight that connected Hyderabad to Bhuj via Mumbai, and the group was greeted by a rather pleasant climate as they transferred to the beach of Mandvi for an overnight stay in tents.
 
Madhavi Agarwal with Club Members 
 
Mandvi is a picturesque town with many old buildings, an important port of the Jadeja Rajputs who claim direct descent from Krishna. They are said to have moved to Sindh when Krishna’s capital, Dwarka, was submerged in the sea. In the 1540s, the Jadejas became the rulers of Kutch. As such, most things in Mandvi revolve around the water. A visit to the beach, exploring the shipbuilding area, a walk along the river; all felt indispensable. But the town is also easily explored on foot, and it is well worth wandering the narrow streets to experience the vibrancy of its old architecture.
 
The next day, after enjoying some local sightseeing, the group headed to Dhordo, where during Rann Utsav a tent city is created. White Rann Camp, located in Dhordo village, is renowned for its white desert, bird-watching and craft villages. Luxury tents are offered as accommodation, these tents handmade using high-quality, naturally-coloured canvas. The interiors are made from cotton, with distinctive woodblock prints in selected colours and patterns. The tents are equipped with amenities like air conditioning and heating via temperature control.
 
Rann Utsav a tent city 
 
The Utsav is a carnival of music and dance that enhances the natural beauty of the Rann. A full moon’s light spreads across the white sand at the start of every year’s Rann Utsav. According to Madhavi, after the cultural evening, they were taken to the Rann. “It was a full moon night, and the Rann looked like a white, barren plain of salt. It was just unimaginable – no trees, no water and no habitation. It looked creepy and scary on one hand, yet beautiful on the other. We stayed there for half an hour enjoying the mesmerising sight before heading back to our tents.”
 
Day three was set aside for sightseeing. After morning tea and breakfast, the group checked out Gandhi Nu Gaam and Kala Dungar before heading back to their tents. After lunch, they enjoyed camel rides before a few of them went back to the Rann at sunset. “We saw the place bathed in moonlight, and now it was time to see it during sunset,” Madhavi said. “At around five, we were joined by a sunset as beautiful as the desert itself.”
 
Gandhi Nu Gaam and Kala Dungar 
 
The group then went back to their tents, and the evening that followed was music, food and fun as usual. The next day, they headed back to the Rann for sunrise. “The Rann comes across as a different place at different times. At dawn, it was blue on one side and orange on another. We could see both the sun and the moon at the same time. It was simply outstanding!” Madhavi exclaimed.
 
En route back to the airport in Bhuj, Madhavi and her friends headed to the Sri Swami Narayan Temple made of marble, with intricate carvings adorning the pillars and ceiling. It’s one of the most expensive temples recently built in the state of Gujarat. Aina Mahal is an 18th-century palace in Bhuj located next to Prag Mahal. The walls of the palace are white marble, covered with mirrors and separated by gilded ornaments, with shades of Venetian glass.
 
Aina Mahal 
 
According to Madhavi, one of the best things about the trip was the effortless ease with which members of different age groups mingled on the trip, as well as how each and every one of them walked away with happy memories. “At the end of the journey, we were very happy. We had a mix of people from age 35 to 80, and we were all thrilled to have visited this place. We ate together, shopped together, and stayed together like one big family.”                                                                                                                      ..... Rahul