“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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
“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 →
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 →
Once upon a time there was a flourishing port town by the name of Lakhpat. Situated at the mouth of the Kori creek, overlooking the Great Rann of Kutch, it is believed to have been so named because of its daily revenue of one lakh (million) koris (the then currency of Kutch). As I approach the now deserted town, a hushed breeze redolent with countless stories—some fact, some legend—sweeps over the crumbling ruins … Continue reading →
With this post I digress to another side of Kutch—the ornamental wall paintings which decorate the walls of homes, temples and work places in the vast salt pans’ midst. An art form sadly extinct, and least known of Kutch art and crafts.
Dating back to the 18th Century, the Kamangari School of Painting, painted on scrolls and walls, and unique to Kutch, is now a vanished tradition—its remnants found in a couple of Bhuj’s museums, a few random surviving homes, and a portico in the decaying monastery of the Kanphatayogis that I visited in Than. Continue reading →
“The Rann is a great teacher. A sea of salt, it is harsh. Very harsh. It makes you resilient. But it softens your eyes with tears and teaches your heart to be kind,” my Kutchi co-passenger on the sleeper train to Bhuj philosophically explains as the train rumbles its way through the barren expanses of northern Gujarat. I must confess I am not too sure what he means. Doesn’t harshness make us harsh too? I guess I look nonplussed. He smiles at me, “You will feel it. You will see it.” Continue reading →