White expanses of sand and salt, vibrant hues, loads of festivities and fanfare...the Rann Utsav is quite an experience.
As a child whenever someone mentioned the word utsav to me, it always conjured up colourful images in my mind. That’s why, when I set out for the Rann Utsav, in Gujarat, I expected a desert with colourful paraphernalia, locals dressed in traditional outfits, sand dunes and authentic Gujarati food.
It was a 14-hour drive from Mumbai, and as we entered the Rann, our eyes were met with acres of white sand around us.
The tent city set up on the outskirts of the bordering village of Dhordo in the Rann welcomed us with a lot of fanfare, colourful flags and rows of lights in varied hues. The idea of camping out in a desert was exciting. Next morning, I started my day with a delicious cup of masala chai and off we went to the salt marsh. Having visited Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, I knew what a desert looked like but walking through the White Rann was a new experience. The largest salt desert in the world kept creating many mirages.
If you want to watch the Rann at its best, you may want to try the the camel safari, where every step of the camel makes you more aware of the shifting sands. However if the thought of a camel ride gives you goose pimples, you can always hop onto a chakado, a Kutchi tuktuk. I realised that within a few minutes of my ride, I had lost track of my friend and he, now, seemed like a small speck in that ocean of salt. As much as I tried to capture the view in photographs, the best one still remains in my memory.
The desert was blazing in the afternoons and awfully cold in the mornings and evenings, but a glass of ginger tea took care of that. I spent the mornings and evenings reclined outside the tent, soaking in the brilliant views of the sunrise and sunset.
On the second day we decided to ditch our car for fun on three wheels. I didn’t quite expect this one at the Rann festival. Trikke India had put up this vehicle on display and by the size of the crowd outside their booth, we decided to pick up two of those. I haven’t been so fascinated by anything in a long time, a rugged Bradley Cooper in his latest movie included. A fun trikke off-roading session at the Rann worked up the appetite. Only this time we decided to give the usual Gujarati flavours a miss for some favourites from other states that were available at stalls outside. Considering this was our second night here, this one had to be grand and I couldn’t wait to get a taste of the Kutchi folk music and Garba that awaited us at the gala night. The Rann Utsav plays host to some of the well-known names within the folk music fraternity. Musicians such as Amritbhai Barot and party, Mehmood bhai and group, Budha Bela and party performed to loud cheers from the crowd. However among the many acts that night, the one that left an impression on my mind was a class act by Rajendraji and group, Kervanu Vesh, an art form that I was told is practiced only by him and his brother in India . The art involves him spinning non-stop, sometimes as long as an hour, and while he spins, he puts together handmade creatures using a cloth without a single knot.
Next up, time for Dandiya Raas. It’s funny that after all these years of living in Mumbai I never even came close to being a part of the Dandiya Navratri festivals and here I was dancing on stage with the folk troupe. Boy! This was fun!
On day three we visited the neighbouring artistes’ villages of Hodka, Ludia and Khavda. Climbing up to Kala Dongra, the highest peak of Kutch was daunting but the view of the Rann at sunset made the climb worth it. I had recently read somewhere that the best part about travelling is that it takes you to new places and the worst part is that by the time you fall in love with that place, it is time to leave. As I sat outside my tent, reminiscing the days spent here, all the lanterns around me lit up. Would I miss this place? Most definitely, yes!