Sandy yet splendid, the Rann – meaning the desert, plays host to thousands of travel enthusiasts throughout the year. The Rann was originally an extension of the Arabian Sea that was closed for centuries due to the silting process. This seasonally marshy land covers a region of more than 10,000 sq kms and is divided into Great Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch. The Great Rann reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world, falls under the district of Kutch in Gujarat and spans an area of 7505.22 sq km. Home to a wide array of flora and fauna this place also offers a sojourn for migratory birds during diverse weather conditions. It is also the only place in India where flamingos lay eggs and bring up their chicks. About 13 species of larks have been reported from Great Rann. The Little Rann is another area that occupies 4,953 sq km of land and is spread out in the districts of Surendranagar, Banaskantha, Patan, Kutch and Rajkot. It has a convoluted topography that varies from large marshlands sporadically cut by brown – grey patches of soil with a few small thorny shrubs. This area is home to one of the largest wildlife reserves in the country – Wild Ass Sanctuary and is also a paradise for bird-watchers. Little Rann has been deemed as the world’s last refuge of the Indian Wild Ass known as Khur. Little Rann also gives refuge to several migratory birds like pelicans, flamingos, cranes, ducks and land birds like Indian bustards, sand grouse and francolins. The Indian wolf, desert fox and nilgai are also some of the unique animals seen in this region.
Kutch has inherited a rich culture and tradition that is still adhered to by the local tribes. This gives it a distinction of being a place where nature’s pristine beauty blends with the cultural richness to the delight of the visitor. Hand made embroidery appeals and attracts the outsider. Pottery, shell-work, metal crafts, hand block painting, pen-knives, nut crackers, sea shell toys, wood carving are a few among the myriad of artifacts found in Kutch. The region has a great history of foreign trade in handicrafts with various countries. These artifacts are still in great demand in national and international markets.
The Rann Utsav, an annual festival organised by Gujarat Tourism, is a festival to experience and reminisce for a lifetime. The Rann Utsav is a carnival of colours, music and dance. The full moon pays its most spectacular visit in winter. The white salt-encrusted plains shimmering in the moonlight are the inspiration behind the Rann Utsav. The full moon night of December marks the festival and the celebrations are carried over to January. More than 8000 people from many parts of the world come to Kutch to indulge in the elation of the festivities. Accommodation and meals are arranged in a tent village set up at Dhordo, where cultural performances are held and handicrafts are exhibited. Travellers can witness the euphoria of Gujarati folk dance, camel safari, live-tents and musical feasts, all set in the romantic ambiance of moonlit landscape. Various activities like Rann safari, Kutch carnival, visits to Kutch’s villages and adventure sports add to the thrill and excitement. The multi-hued fairs are arranged by the banks of the lake or at the beach.
Gujarat Tourism plays a major role in organising and managing these activities. A vibrant state, as it is often identified as, Gujarat has some of the most exotic locations and destinations to its credit. Events and festivals like Rann Utsav add to the glory and multiplicity, that are now synonymous to land of Mahatma and Sardar, the land of Kutch, that is the mystical land of Gujarat.