uncut: road trip to kutch

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“Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but about the journey itself.” ~ Anonymous

This is my last and final post on my 5-day road trip to Kutch taken in December 2014; a road trip full of personal 1sts that I would be happy to turn into 2nds. Uncut, here are some images which did not make it to my eight blog posts on the region but summarize my journey just as eloquently. Continue reading

palaces of bhuj and mandvi

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Think palaces and royalty in Kutch. Think Bhuj and Mandvi. They are (sorry, were) almost synonymous with each other till the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake which brought much of the region to dust. Yet a few structures still stand, recounting an era that whispers to the traveller.

Kutch was a princely state till India’s independence; the walled city of Bhuj dating back to 1510 the state’s commercial and administrative nerve centre. In 1548 Rao Shri Khengarji started work on the Darbargadh or palace complex. Over the next 300 years, subsequent rulers further added to it, reflecting prevailing cultural and artistic trends. Continue reading

than monastery of the slit ear yogis, and fossils of kutch

Deep in the rolling hills outlying the Great Rann of Kutch, some 65 odd kilometres from Bhuj, is a centuries old Hindu monastery, the Than monastery, steeped in medieval traditions and customs, its actual age disputable. There is not another soul for miles; the only sound heard being that of the peacocks singing in the surrounding forests. Within the monastery’s thick limestone whitewashed walls a sole yogi, with a handful of companions, keeps an exclusive tantric monastic order alive—the Kanphata (slit ears) sect founded by the sage Dhoramnath. Continue reading

koteshwar temple, kutch: an 1820 ode to shiva

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I am not one for religious rituals for the simple reason that I am quite ignorant of most of them, whether it be what one is supposed to say and do in a temple, church, mosque, synagogue or gurdwara. But that has in no way diluted my love for religious places. 🙂 Yes, god is everywhere—Next to me, as well as you. But within certain sacred walls, in the culmination of art and the faith of followers, He (or to be a feminist She—God doesn’t really care; we are the ones with all the issues) is a bit more tangible. Almost visible in his invisibility. Continue reading

the 4,500 year old harappan site of dholavira, kutch

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“At the height of our civilization, our technological development, our social and material complexity, all signs point to progress, we often think. And yet, all is not as it seems and once in a while it occurs to us to look into the past to discover our future.”

The above lines, read in the adjoining museum, accompany me as I walk into the majestic and isolated ruins of the 4,500 year old Harappan city of Dholavira. There is a hushed stillness all around. The only sounds I can hear are the birds chirping in some distance, and my guide’s quiet voice pointing to some detail or the other. The sun beats down on both me and the dusty stones strewn over the site, the latter telling me stories long forgotten and now valiantly being attempted to be reread and understood. I am in the north-east corner of Kutch, on the island of Khadir surrounded by the Great Rann. Continue reading

temples of bhuj: the grand and the familial

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Above: The Soni family temple

Every day as I set off to explore one corner or another of Kutch I would pass a dazzling white edifice in Bhuj, my base during my travels in north-west Gujarat. And my eyes would hold on to it, till it disappeared from sight. It was the Swaminarayan Temple of Bhuj. I knew I could not leave without visiting it. Call it faith. Call it the traveller’s call. But I found myself waking up at the crack of dawn this morning and finding my way towards it. Continue reading