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Gujarat - Runn of Kutch, Bhuj and Koteshwar - A Tourist's Guide
Runn of Kutch, Bhuj and Koteshwar :
Season to visit - October to March.
The biggest Indian district, Kutch, covering a rambling 45652 square km of lands, is located towards the north- western side of Gujarat. A number of dynasties over the years have ruled Kutch. To safeguard the city and to give the city the maximum protection, Rao 1st Deshalji had decided to erect a rampart around the city in 1723. Later on, with the motive of extending the entire city terrain, the historical fortification (35 * 4 feet) had been demolished very recently in 1948. Numerous sprinkled evidences of the royal era had also been annihilated severely by British brutal force and by a frightening inundation. Bhuj of Kutch was hit by a mammoth earthquake recently on 26th January, 2001 as well. These cataclysms had taken a toll on the city. Lot of lives along with valuables had been lost during this earthquake. Huge amounts of money were brought in from all over the world to reshape the city. Few houses which could successfully hold their heads high during these natural disasters are still quietly recollecting the old memories. It is still very tough to reach Kutch. Tribes, such as, Koli, Katris, Rabari, Ahir and Abhla, are enjoying their stay in the middle of the marvelous architectural evidences and religious crowds of Kutch. The territory of dry Kutch is entirely delimited by well stretched out ocean. Kutch Mahotsav draws attention of innumerable tourists during February- March. The notable Kutch cultures and its age-old traditions impress one and all.
Well drawn out dry desert and beautiful sandy beaches of Kutch are the crowd pullers. It is a part of the Thar Desert. Once upon a time Sindhu Nad used to mark its way through the arena of Kutch. Diminutive Beyts or Sandy islands are dotted around now. Sand dunes one after the other are scattered on the serene sandy lands.
The renowned “Little Runn of Kutch” is spread across 74 islands, covering 5180 square km of straggling territory. All these Islands enjoy the shades of prosopis and mangrove foliage.
Another enthralling island, called, Runn of Kutch, covering a sprawling 20700 square km of land, is located at a distance of 70 km towards the northern side of Bhuj. Nearby Pakistan can be seen and accessed from Kutch crossing Runn or the ocean of salts.
Interested tourists should not miss the opportunity to travel to the Black hill or Kala Dungar, about 19 km away from Khabra village. Hire a car or avail a bus from Khabra to the Black hill. The hill houses a temple of the saint Dattatreya and military camp. Witnessing the pretty and well-spread-out Runn from the crest of the Black hill would be an enticing experience for all.
The Flamingo Colony at Tengri Bay is just 38 km away from Khabra. Avail the 2 days long camel safari from Tuga which is situated at a distance of 20 km from Bhuj. Tuga is well connected to Bhuj by bus. The temperature of Kutch remains in the higher side during day time but it changes abruptly in the evening. Hence, you can get delight in the pleasant weather in evening.
The entire province of Kutch gets submerged in the water of the neighboring ocean during monsoon which starts from the month of May. Very few people, however, are living in Kutch.
The Little Runn of Kutch becomes a breeding land of different migratory birds, such as, Flamingo (white and pink colored) and pelicans.
Different kinds of chemicals are being produced now from the natural salt of Kutch. Runn produces 20% of salts of entire salt production of India. Researchers are trying to find out the ways of farming on the arid lands of Kutch.
Wild Ass Sanctuary, covering 5180 square km arid lands, is the only one in the world of its kinds. More than 2100 wild asses (Equus Hemionus Khur) amble across the 70 contiguous beyts or islands. The best time to visit the sanctuary is during November- February. Tourists, however, flock to the sanctuary during October- May in abundance as well. A 20 cm tall and 210 meters long brown and white colored ass of the sanctuary has a weight of 230 kg. Asses of this sanctuary run at a speed of 70-80 km/hour.
Apart from asses, Houbara bustards, Blackbucks, Nilgais, Boars, Chinkaras, Wolfs, Hyenas and Desert Cats amble around the lush green wildlife sanctuary. Pelican, Flamingos and Succulents are among the various species of migratory birds which enjoy the compelling greenery of the sanctuary during winters. You would get an opportunity here to watch Koli tribes who earn money by producing salt.
Kutch experiences 25 mm of rain falls in an entire year. The temperature in winter stays around 4 degrees Celsius where as in summer 47 degrees Celsius of temperature is recorded.
Bhuj: Bhuj is located right in the middle of Kutch. The territory of Kutch in 1715 was well fortified with a huge rampart. The city was expanded later on after the independence and the historical rampart was pulled down.
Bhuj is said to be the largest and busiest air base of the Indian Air Force Authority.
75 meters tall Bhujiya hill houses the historical Bhujiya fort which was the residence of the Bhujanga Nath, the brother of Sesh Nag. A temple is there to recall the memories of Bhujanganag. Bhuj has derived its name from Bhujanga. Even before few years, the city used to have a special tradition. The main entrance of the city used to remain open previously starting from the sunrise till sunset.
Previously the old city of Bhuj was spread in the captivating Alampana fort. Rao Lakha Palace was built in 1752 and is a pretty allurement of the fort. The Darbar Hall, Aina Mahal, doorway with flanked elephant teeth, floor of Chinese tiles, marble wall (well decorated with mirrors), picture exhibition, collection of clocks, silver and gold ornaments of the palace are upholding the ancient cultures of royal dynasty.
Darbar Garh was erected by Mirza Maharao Pragmalji 2nd during 1860 using red sandstones. The impressiveness of the riveting Raj Mahal Palace pulls countless numbers of holiday makers.
Maharao Palace- Aina Mahal, built during 18th century, on the banks of the enamoring Lake, depicts Dutch and Kutch architectural splendors. 15 meters tall 1st floor is entirely decorated with shimmering glasses. The light of a lamp reflects on various glasses which are attached on different walls. It creates an impression of countless numbers of lighted lamps.
To showcase the collections of Maharao Sinh Madanhji, a museum had been built on the premise of the Aina Mahal spending a hefty amount of 2 lakhs pounds. The assortment of coins of the neighboring state would catch eyes of all the tourists. An astounding clock is also put on display. Fuvara and Hira Mahal on the 2nd floor are very pretty as well. Fuvara or Rang Mahal was used as an entertainment room by the royal family members. Innumerable singers, dancers, poets and instrument players used to showcase their talents in Rang Mahal. To maintain a comfortable temperature in Fuvara Mahal, they used to spray water.
The private room called Hira Mahal in Maharao Palace is a pretty destination for the throng of holiday makers for its well maintained collection of clocks and doorways. All these doorways are the epitomes of luxury as these grand structures depict Daru and Eye-Bhari architectural panache stylishly. Well ornamented (bejeweled with diamonds and valuables) swords, with golden beds, golden bedstead and crystal utensils are the treats to the travelers.
On the eastern banks of the amiable Hamirsar Lake, the Sharad Bagh palace was built long back in 1867 in the middle of the green orchard. A museum with plenty of historical anthologies has been set up now in the rooms of the Sharad Bagh Palace. The personal collection of Maharao has been exhibited in this stately museum. The coffin of Maharao Madan Singh has been displayed in the museum. Mahadev Gate (situated at the southern banks of the Lake), Ramkund tank, Folk Arts and crafts museum, lavish Swami Narayan temple, Park on the Island of the Lake and Chattis of red sandstones are the other coveted tourists’ destinations of Kutch. The Chattish upholds the cultures and carries the memories of the Jadeja royal family. The largest shrine of Mirza Maharao was built using red sandstones in 1770 by Ram Singh Malam who was the creator of the appealing Aina Mahal. The idol in this shrine was constructed on a horse. To remember 15 well known singers of the Darbar of royal leader, 15 slabs had been built. All of these 15 singers had sacrificed their lives after the death of Rana. The affable central dome is surrounded by a beautiful gallery which was established elegantly on well embellished pillars.
The new city of Kutch has now been extended beyond the boundary which was marked previously by a fortification. Slender streets are spread across the terrain of the city. The city looks a maze to a stranger. Cars driven by camels carry burdens and runs slowly through these narrow streets of Kutch. Streets are separated from the roadside homes by walls. The diversified construction styles of all these homes would enthrall you. City dwellers like to wear colorful attires. Rabaris, Ahirs, Meghwals and Vankar tribes live on the premises of more than 200 villages. They have a big heart and they greet tourists always with a broad smile on their faces.
You would be able to witness a very own mixed culture and tradition of Kutch. Inhabitants earn money by Jali works using silver and gold and by printing on clothes.
If you want to purchase something from Kutch to remember the trip, then you can buy embroidered items, stones, handicrafts, woolen shawls, and leather items.
More than 3500 women are working hard day in and day out in embroidery industry in Shrujan of Bhujodi, about 10 km towards the western side of Kutch. This praiseworthy initiative was taken by a NGO.
If you want to witness the sumptuousness and magnificence of the ancient collections of Gujarat, then you have to flock to the oldest museum of Gujarat, namely Kutch Museum, located on the south- eastern banks of the Hamirsar Lake. Pink sandstones lay the foundation of this primeval museum. The class apart and diversified anthology of the museum are eye-catching. The silver lock which resembles an Indian map is one of the prime allurements of the museum. The museum is closed on Wednesdays, 2nd and 4th Saturdays.
Prag Mahal Palace is well decorated with the assortments of elephant teeth and is depicting a fusion of Mughal-British-Kutch-Italian architectural elegances. The carvings of Daru architectures on various parts of the palace would entertain the swarms of holiday makers for sure. Built by British technician, Cornell Wilkins, the palace now houses a Government office. The Darbar Hall (25*12 meters) exhibits pillars of Corinthian architectures, Vinischia Gothic arches, colorful glasses, European chandelier, pictorial depictions of the dramas of Shakespeare and pretty furniture. The family traditions of Maharao dynasty are portrayed artistically on the pictures. Various stuffed animals are also put on display. Through the slender tract, beside the palace, the towering Clock Tower can be accessed. All the tourists who want to enjoy an agreeable panoramic view around the area of Kutch have to climb up the clock tower. Bare footed tourists have to pay 10 rupees per head to climb up the tower. But, if you want to capture images of the tower and its surrounding areas, then you have to pay extra for that.
Jinalaya, the Jain temple complex of 72 divine temples, is another sought after destination for the spiritual crowds. The gateway is wrapped stunningly in brass and gold sheets. The idols of Jain Tirthankars are draped in expensive gold.
Koteshwar: About 152 km away from Bhuj, Koteshwar, is well connected to Bhuj by bus. Hiring an auto from Bhuj to Koteshwar is not a bad idea. The place doesn’t attract tourists in numbers but the enticement of Koteshwar as a spiritual spot is immense. Kotilingeshwar Mahadev is residing in the sanctified temple of Koteshwar. The dome shaped divine temple houses the holy idol.
Another consecrated temple called Kalanyeshwar temple is located right beside the famous Koteshwar temple. For performing the act of libation a well of stones had been excavated here as well. The water of Arabian ocean is coming all the way to the temple through a narrow canal. The well-stretched-out sandy land around would enthrall everyone as well. Go beyond the arid sandy land to reach neighboring nation, Pakistan.
You should not miss the opportunity to watch the architectural grandeur of the well- fortified temple complex, about 2 km away from Kalyaneshwar temple. The pretty and stylish temple complex of Narayan Sarovar comprises of various holy temples, such as, Narayan, Gobardhannath, Dwarkadhish, Lakshmi-Narayan etc. The Narayan Sarovar is one of the four divine Lakes (Manas, Bindu, Pampa and Narayan) of the world. Later on, when the River Sindhu had changed its course, the sanctified Narayan Sarovar was abolished. The existing Sarovar (Lake) is positioned beside the hallowed Adinarayan temple. Innumerable Hindu deities are residing on the thrones of this temple. Not many tourists visit the spot but there is no dearth of spiritual crowds here. Throngs of spiritual batches gather on the premise in countless numbers during the festival, held in the month of Karthik (According to Bengali calendar year).
Nature lovers who visit the place won’t definitely be disappointed as they can easily visit the nearby Narayan Sarovar Chinkara Sanctuary, about 2 km away from Narayan Sarovar. Red colored Antelopes or Chinkaras are the chief residents of the sanctuary.
Enjoy your stay here at Hotel Toran of TCGL and at Temple Guest House.
Kutch bay has many colors and countless visiting spots for the diversified tourists. It’s important for all of you to be familiar about all these attractive destinations before hand for a comfortable trip though.
You can hire a car and take a trip to Matanomadh, about 80 km away from Bhuj. It is said that the famous Goddess, Devi Ambika of Matanomadh, fulfills the worldly desires and wishes of her followers.
Another old but singular port city nearby is Lakhpat which is also popularly known as a Sikh pilgrimage. It is 53 km away from the well known divine spot, Koteshwar temple. Guru Nanak has stayed here once while going to Mecca. To recall that memory and to recollect the name of the great man, a Gurdwara had been constructed on the holy land. Innumerable mosques and countless numbers of consecrated temples are scattered around the territory.
Syed Ghous Muhammad Dargah, erected during 1850, right beside the bus stand of Lakhpat, is pulling numerous Muslim devotees.
Located on the well stretched out sea beach, the well protected fort city, Lakhpat, was surrounded by a huge fortification and was named after Rao Lakha. Another group of people opine that a number of wealthy men with Lakhs of rupees used to live here in Lakhpat. Since then it was known as Lakhpat.
The sandy province wordlessly recollects the old glory memories. The journey on a bus through the desert land would be a delightful experience for everyone. Not many shops are there in Lakhpat. The scarcity of hotels is another problem for the holiday makers here. It is recommended to hire a car from Bhuj and complete the tour of Koteshwar, Lakhpat and Narayan Sarovar comfortably.
About 60 km away towards the south- western side of Bhuj, Mandvi, the old port city, has now become a beach resort with the inauguration of the port at Kandla. Mandvi previously was a popular name is the ship manufacturing business. The primeval port of Mandbvi is situated at the entrance of the Kutch bay. The importance of the Mandvi port had been diminished but ships are still manufactured in the city. Interested tourists can purchase Bandhani Saris of Mandvi.
It’s a very good idea to hire a car and visit the summer retreat of Kutch Maharao, Vijay Vilas Palace, about 8 km towards the western side of the city of Mandvi. Swarms of holiday makers can watch the spectacle of the royal palace everyday during 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. by spending 25 rupees each. Very recently a hotel has been set up in the rooms of the stately and old palace.
Frequent bus services are available to Mandvi from Bhuj. Share taxis ply to Mandvi as well from Bhuj. The city is also well connected to the prime city of Gujarat, Ahmadabad, by bus.
For staying overnight comfortably with your family members, you can move into the Sahara Hotel or Vinayak Hotel Guest House or Shital Guest House or Tourists Beach Resort. The Government Guest House is located at a distance of 2 km from the city of Mandvi.
The excavation at Dholavira Island, about 255 km away towards the north- eastern side of Bhuj, has revealed countless numbers of substances of Harappa- Mohenjo-Daro civilization (3000 B.C.). Traces of ancient cultures and traditions had been found by the excavation done by the archeological department. As the spot is located at the border, you would face an inconvenience due to the transportation problem. Foreigners have to grant permission from the Collector Office, Bhuj. Buses from Bhuj takes 5 ½ hours to reach Dholavira.
Tourists who are planning to stay in Dholavira can stay at Hotel Toran of TCGL or in ordinary guest houses. You can stay at Gandhi Ashram in Lilpur before going to Dholavira. Tourists who want to travel by train have to get down at Gandhidham and then hire a car to Dholavira. Tourists can stay overnight at Shantidham, located near the Gandhidham railway station on NH-15.
Anjar was the ancient capital of Kutch since 1548. The place can be accessed by bus from Bhuj. It is located at a distance of 41 km towards the south- eastern side of Bhuj. The city of Anjar was built by the king Ajepal in 805. Earthquakes had hit the city in the past repeatedly and had affected the lifestyles of Anjar. Jewelry, embroidered items, Bandhani saris, batik fabric items, designed knives and scissors are very popular here.
The shrine of Pir Baba recalls plenty of old religious stories.
Don’t forget to savor the taste of curd of Anjar. Handicrafts of Kutch are manufactured in the villages like Birendiara, Hodka and Gorewali. Another famous town of Gujarat is Niroma, about 40 km away towards the north-western side of Bhuj. It is a reputed town for its cultures and traditions. Buy handkerchiefs of Kutch as well.
Bhadreshwar is a spiritual spot for the Jain pilgrims. Old grandeur of Bhadreshwar had been demolished but the Government is working really hard on giving it a new shape altogether.
How to reach: Bhuj is well connected to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore, Gandhidham, Nagercoil and Pune by train. Bhuj can be accessed from Ahmadabad by bus as well.
Where to stay: Dasada (a nearby destination) has few hotels, such as, Camp Houbara, Fatima Manzil and Dasada. Hotel Ilark, Hotel Oasis, Prince Hotel, Hotel KBN, Lake View Hotel and Sahara palace are there in Bhuj.
Check our hotel booking links below for photos, rates, options and online bookings.