Kutch: A Potpourri of Colourful Culture, Thrilling Adventure

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Kutch gives a jubilant welcome to its visitors and guests with a potpourri of colourful culture, thrilling adventure, and vibrant life. It's travellers' season to visit Kutch, the second largest district in India. In the last two decades, tourism policy of Gujarat has been revamped to invite national and international guests to go gallivanting the hot terrains. It goes without saying that winter is the perfect season to explore Kutch, which offers myriad destinations and opportunities to satiate your wanderlust.

Kutch, in Sanskrit, means tortoise; if you ask why, look at the map of Kutch upside down, its shape looks like a tortoise and hence the name ‘Kutch’. The city has vibrant life, pristine locations, religious shrines and adventure spots. It's a perfect place for globetrotters to celebrate extraordinary life for a week or more.

The area of Kutch District is larger than the entire area of states like Haryana and Kerala. Kutch literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kutch, which is shallow wetland that submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The Rann is known for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the shallow water dries up each season before the monsoon rains.

Must-visit Locations

Kutch can spoil you for choices with its repertoire of amazing locations to leave your footprints on. Whatever the purpose of your journey, Kutch has something for everyone. It is your one-stop destination to explore stunning locations, rich culture, awe-inspiring adventure, spirituality and vibrant life.

Jesal Toral Shrines (Anjar)

jesal_toral_samadhi

To the east of Ajepal's monastery is a temple known locally as "Jesal Toral ni Samadhi", translating to "The Tomb of Jesal and Toral". It is a small tiled shed with tombs decorated with Muslim patterns sacred to the fourteenth century couple Jesal and his wife Toral. The shrine is under the care of the Ajepal monastery. Jesal's descendants, known as the Jesar Rajputs, built shrines to the couple in each of the town's twelve villages.

According to local history, Jester (later Jesal or Jesar) was the grandson of Jadeja Ragput leader Jam Rawal. Jesal would later become an outlaw: killing people, destroying villages and stealing cattle. Toral or Turi – a Kathi woman – was famous for composing hymns and for her devotion, as well as her beauty. She lived with an ascetic man named Sávasdhir, who did not consider Toral his wife but instead as someone who would bring salvation. The fame of her beauty reached Jesal, who unsuccessfully attempted to abduct her. After being foiled, Jesal returned to the town disguised as an ascetic, but again his plans to abduct Toral were exposed.

Confessing his plans to abduct Toral to a sect who granted a wish to every confessed sinner, Jesal was offered Toral on condition that he became ascetic. He agreed, but eventually grew tired of the constraints of asceticism, trying again to abduct Toral, who foiled his plans and over time changed Jesal into a model ascetic. Permanently settling in Anjar, Jesar died and Turi was buried alive beside his tomb. The story was the inspiration for the 1971 Gujarati film Jesal Toral.

Bhujodi (Vande Matram Show)

bhujodi

Here is India’s very first 4-D Memorial where you can relive the entire journey of Indian Independence in life-like 4-D technology. A humble offering by Ashapura Group to the proud citizens of India, the Memorial is a non-profit institution dedicated to immortalising our country’s journey to Independence from British rule, right from the revolt of 1857 till our freedom in 1947.

Vande Mataram Memorial is spread over 12 acres of land in the Bhuj region of Gujarat, comprising of a Parliament Building, India Gate, Yellow Fort and open grounds for all to enjoy. A part of the grounds also houses Hiralaxmi Craft Park, another non-profit initiative by Ashapura Foundation, which houses local artisans from across villages in Kutch-Bhuj and provides them a platform to hone and showcase their crafts to buyers.

Confessing his plans to abduct Toral to a sect who granted a wish to every confessed sinner, Jesal was offered Toral on condition that he became ascetic. He agreed, but eventually grew tired of the constraints of asceticism, trying again to abduct Toral, who foiled his plans and over time changed Jesal into a model ascetic. Permanently settling in Anjar, Jesar died and Turi was buried alive beside his tomb. The story was the inspiration for the 1971 Gujarati film Jesal Toral.

Bhuj (Aaina Mahal and Prag Mahal)

aaina mahal

The Aina Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) is an 18th-century palace that is located next to the Prag Mahal in Darbargadh, Bhuj. The palace was built by Rao Lakhpatji of Kutch State around 1750. Lakhpatji's master craftsman Ram Singh Malam designed the palace in the local style and decorated it in the European style with glass, mirrors and tiles. The palace had two floors; the first floor has the Audience Hall, the Pleasure Hall, the Hall of Mirrors and the State Apartments, and the second floor has the ante-chamber, Darbar (Court) Hall and Marriage Hall. The building has been converted into a museum which includes a “europeanerie” collection that includes clocks, wares, mechanical toys, paintings and pictures.

prag mahal

Prag Mahal is named after Rao Pragmalji II, who commissioned it and construction began in 1865. Made of Italian marble and sandstone from Rajasthan, this palace was designed by Colonel Henry St Clair Wilkins in what the local tourist office describes as the Italian Gothic style, although it would be better described as a Romanesque architecture twist on the Indo-Saracenic Revival style, and many Italian artisans were involved in its construction. The palace artisans' wages were paid in gold coins. Construction of the palace, which ultimately cost 3.1 million rupees, was completed in 1879 during the regency of Khengarji III (Pragmalji II's son) following Pragmalji II's death in 1875. The local Kutchi builder community (Mistris of Kutch) was also involved in construction of Prag Mahal along with Colonel Wilkins.

Prag Mahal

  • The main hall is filled with decaying taxidermy
  • Broken chandeliers and classical statues in Durbar hall
  • Corinthian pillars
  • Jali work depicting European plants and animals
  • A 45-feet high tower with a clock, from where you can see the entire Bhuj city
  • A small temple in the courtyard behind the palace with nicely carved stonework

Swaminarayan Temple (Bhuj)

swaminarayan temple Bhuj

The Gujarat earthquake on 26 January 2001 destroyed much of the city of Bhuj, including this temple associated with the founder of the Swaminarayan sect of Hindu religion. The saints and devotees in India and living abroad, decided to construct a new temple in Bhuj. Fortunately, the idols remained undamaged, and therefore, the temple management shifted the same idols and installed them into the new temple.

Ashapura Temple, Mata no Madh, Lakhpat

Ashapura Temple

Mata no Madh (seat of goddess) is a small village in Lakhpat taluka; known for Ashapura temple, this village is located about 105 km from Bhuj. The temple was built in the 14th century by two Banias - Ajo and Anagor - from Karad community. Literally means fulfiller (Pura) of desires (Asha), Goddess Ashapura is venerated and worshipped by devotees from all faiths and religions.

White Rann

white rann

White Rann of Kutch is one of the major attractions among tourists, who visit the district. Spread across the land of 30,000 sq. km, this Rann comprises the Great Rann of Kutch, the Little Rann of Kutch and Banni grassland.

Known for its massive expanse of cracked earth, this desert offers nothingness for miles. For its small oasis of water bodies and shrub forests, pink flamingoes and wild asses made this place their home.

White Rann offers mesmerizing beauty of flat land, which captures cool beams of full moon and rain drops with equal zest. Here, sunrise and sunset are no less than a miracle, which provides a delicious feast to the eyes of tourists.

To be continued…

Given the number of words, the article is split into two parts. The second part will be published next week.

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