Family Vacation Ideas
Rann Festival in Gujarat
One day before my anointed travel date and I was still struggling for tickets calling up Indian railways & Gujarat tourism, using every related and unrelated trump card and contemplating on my last minute air travel. All this, for my maiden entry to Thepla-Fafda land.
Reev during Rann festival in Gujarat
I had only heard about the Rann of Kutch festival from a few Gujarati friends before embarking on my journey with a friend,my mother and my kid during Christmas. Adhoc plan and delicate star cast. I did have to pay the exorbitant price for my last minute flight bookings courtesy a few Gujju business extremists from travel industry in Ahmedabad who lied through the skin that Rann Utsav bookings couldn’t be postponed or cancelled even though I desperately needed to change my travel dates for the lack of confirmed train tickets.
Thought of Gandhi and Modi at the same time but my travel itch was difficult to resist given that I love colors and Gujarati thali. Also, how could I ignore Mr. Bachchan who kept saying ‘Kutch nahi dekha, to kya dekha?’
Colors of Dhordo, Bhuj
25th Dec 2011, first day of my three day package trip ,I reached Bhuj, somehow and anyhow. We were the only Bangaloreans in a sea of humanity that spoke ‘aau chu or basi jaao’. After 1.5 hrs of dug-dug bus travel from Bhuj, we found ourselves in the tented city of Dhordo. Ethnically Grandiose! Besides, Gujarati food was a double bonanza for me. The glutton in me would keep all senses wide awake for every meal to hog on there.
Tent City where I stayed during rann utsav in Gujarat
Rann of Kutch festival- When to go?
Rann Utsav is an annually organized festival by Gujarat tourism every December and runs for a month. Best time to attend the carnival is around the full moon night of December.The tent city is hardly 5 kms from white Rann -the salt desert, which is splendid on full moon night. My lucky stars I was there on 25th December – a new moon day.
Houses in Dhordo Village
As per schedule, we headed to Dhordo village and Hodko village on the first day of our camp. Colorfully flamboyant houses,creative handicrafts and the fine art of patience -‘the intricate embroidery work’.
Unfortunately, evening was spent waiting in December cold for some transport to take us back to our tent city from the white Rann post sunset as our bus tyres sank into the salt desert. I am told salt absorbs negativity and I instantly recollected the altercation that a few Gujaratis on our bus had with the driver immediately upon our arrival at white Rann for parking reasons. So much so for Mr. Bachchan’s exhortations about Gujarat.
Next day on our list was Mandavi beach and a visit to Vijay Vilas Palace,made popular by Bollywood as the haveli for “hum dil de chuke sanam”. Its just 160 kms,said the guide. Reached Vijay Vilas in the afternoon, stomach already demanding another round of Gujjudelicacies. Nonetheless I did realize that Vijay Vilas palace is an eclectic blend of architectural styles. Amazing !
At Vijay Vilas Palace
There on to make peace with our hungry bellies,we drove to a restaurant nearby before setting our foot on the highly acclaimed beach of Gujarat. Camel safari at 2.30pm on mandvi beach with sun shining on my head was bad .
Had wished to take the shortest tour of the three options to be able to spend more time at the tent city but courtsey my ringing ears I chose Mandvi beach tour .The whole day was dedicated to giving up one’s life control and limbs to the driver as we could reach only by 9pm.
A lady from Kutch at Dhordo into handicrafts
Why should you visit Rann Utsav
Kutch is mostly appreciated for its ecological and ethnic rich heritage, but more than anything a place is known by its inhabitants. Even though I hadn’t started on a very good note in this trip, my opinion was reversed by a few people I came across in Kutch. On the third and the last day, while I was struggling to find some place to keep my luggage in tourism office at Bhuj and complaining for non cooperation from tourism department, Mr. Good from Information Broadcasting department in Bhuj overheard me and extended help beyond my expectation.”Caught in the wrong job”, the monster india ad flashed in my mind. A strong believer in Bhagavad Geeta he said,’ you came to see Kutch but you’ve not really seen’.And he went out of all his ways to make me understand the true Kutch people, irrespective of the fact that I was a complete stranger.
Parag Mahal, Bhuj Gujarat
Same day in Bhuj, we visited“Aaina Mahal” , “Parag Mahal” and also the ruins of earthquake which had hit Kutch in 2001.
Ruins of Bhuj
The fear of earthquake seems so evident that even the tourism department doesn’t do anything to rebuild or improve the toilets anywhere. Why would such things matter in the big scheme of things…Thankfully I met one more helpful family in the shopping district of Bhuj near Parag Mahal who not only let us their restroom but also their neighbors’.
I even saw the oldest Bhuj temple just next to their house which had survived the earthquake. Lord Krishna seemed strong enough so I took refuge in the same temple along with my son and a 50kg suitcase while my friend and mom shopped during the three hours before our bus to Veraval, nearest railhead for Gir.Gir and Somnath are mandatory being in Gujarat and yes, I did spot a lion within the first 5 minutes of our safari.
Gir lion , Gujarat India
A week of hullabaloo and I was back in Bangalore on 31st Dec.
By the end of the tapestry of contradictions that is Gujjuland, I realized that other than the lions of Gir,there are people atleast in Bhuj who have definitely learnt that the value of another human being is more than money or time and it does inspire me to irrevocably begin my life on a different note and in a different light.