Defining India in the most dramatic manner, the virtual event unfolded the spectacle of the salt desert, mangroves and the resilient spirit of people of Kutch with and their skills to adapt the extreme climate of the region for the participants.
As part of the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat, the DekhoApna Desh webinar series showcased the history, culture, crafts and textile heritage of India’s largest district Kutch in Gujarat under the title of The Tenacity of Survival -Inspirational story of Kutch.
Displaying the message of Kutch that “Kutch nahi Dekha toh Kuch nahi Dekha”, the webinar organised by Tourism Ministry focused the resilient spirit of the people of Kutch to fight natural calamities, the skills that form the report card of the continuous dynamics defining the Indian civilization.
The session was moderated by Rupinder Brar Additional Director General of the Ministry and was presented by Navina Jafa, Director, Indian Cultural Heritage Research.
Jafa through her powerful narration skills presented the contrasting geographical features of Kutch which is a land of the salt desert, grasslands and mangroves. Interestingly, the mangroves here are known for an amazing phenomenon of being the world’s only Inland Mangrove. The Rann of Kutch alone produces three-fourths of total salt supply of India.
Stakeholders were also told that the place is also the home to the Kharai breed of camel which has the special ability to survive on both dry lands as well as in the saline water. They can even swim in seawater and feed on saline water and plants.
They are well-adapted to the extreme climate of the desert and high salinity of water.
The key highlights of the presentation were the virtual visit to the community of Ajrakh traditional block printers. Ajrakh is one of the oldest types of block printing on textiles still practised in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan in India.
Textiles printed in this style are hand-printed using natural dyes on both sides by a laborious and long process of resist printing (a method of printing in which designated areas in the pattern are treated to resist penetration by the dye).
The webinar then took the participants to visit Bannithe Salt Desert in Kutch where the work of three major indigenous communities engaged in pottery, embroidery and leatherwork was showcased. Ms. Jafa also spoke about the monastery of the ear torn ascetics (the siddhi Siddhanta sect) and the langar (Community Kitchen) run by the Monastery.
The presentation also covered the coastal town of Mandavi, where regional Sufi beliefs guide traditional boat builders on the Arabian Sea.
The other salient attractions of Kutch showcased in the webinar included Dholavira, fossil park, salt desert of Arabian sea, Kala Dungar, Guru Gorkanath Temple, Narayan Sarovar Temple, Lakhport Fort and Port and Surhando, which is a unique peacock-shaped instrument plays a melodious music.
Dholavira is the UNESCO World Heritage Site and second largest Harappan site located in India. It is indeed a marvellous example of town-planning and architecture.
Two distinctive dance forms – Thali and Toofaan – were also showcased in the event.
While Thaali dance is a balancing dance performed to commensurate the celebrations of marriage and childbirth, Tooofaan is a famous wild dance of the ocean also known as “Samundar ki Masti”.
Dhordo is a village in Bhuj taluka of the Kutch district of Gujarat. The eco-system of this place not conducive for any other activity boosted tourism like anything. The Rann Utsav which is annually organised from November to March has become the main driver for tourism in Gujarat.
This transformation of the most challenging Dhordo White Rann to the most happening tourist destination of Gujarat has led to many temporary and permanent accommodation structures in and around Dhordo. The sheer human grit, imagination and enterprise have transformed a harsh and unusual terrain into an engine of socio-economic and cultural vibrancy, bringing to its people a sense of self-reliance and pride. The most popular of them all is the Rann Utsav Tent City organized with the support of Gujarat Tourism.
Rann Festival held every year is celebrated from December to February. The Bhuj city is converted into a Tent City with basic amenities. The festival has attractions of BSF Band, Hot Air Ballooning activities, a cultural fiesta of folk music and dance, shopping and tasting the traditional cuisines.
An itinerary for 3-4 days and 7-8 days was shared for capturing the real spirit of Kutch. The itinerary aimed to guide the tourists travelling to Kutch, have a bird’s eye view of things, locations or the tourist sites and to look into the culture, traditions, textiles, block-printing, musical instruments, market places, village tours and dance forms.
Bhuj is a well-connected by road from its neighbouring cities in Gujarat, good rail connectivity from various parts of the country especially from Delhi and Mumbai and is also accessible by air from the Rudra Mata Airport.