A warm gust of dusty air stroked my skin as I adjusted to the noise of rustling auto rickshaws, lovingly named ‘toofans’. Just as in most tourist destinations in India, the auto drivers made a beeline for the tourists who alighted from their bus in order to begin their pestering ritual. This was the homely welcome I received in Bhuj – a place that is famous for historical yet pauperized monuments, delightful food, unique handicrafts and rich cultural roots!
Kutch – the name brings to mind a quintessential village of India, one that’s adorned in vibrant colours in the form of Bandhani cloth and the mesmerizing marshy desert of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Nestled in this vast district is the town of Bhuj, the proud district headquarters. This offbeat destination is famous for its ancient culture, historical roots and the unfortunate earthquake of 2001. Today, you will find that Bhuj has emerged from the tragedy and is rearing to take over the spotlight in the tourism facet of India.
Bhuj gets its name from Bhujia fort, a citadel that sits atop a hill, overlooking the village. Bhujia has been a vigilantly guarding its people since medieval ages when soldiers kept an eye on the entire town from this fort. Let me take you down the memory lane when I visited this rustic part of Gujarat.
Kutchi people are amiable in nature. Kutch buzzwords like ghaghras, dabelis and dhoklas had me at their mercy. The colourful attire ‘ghaghra’ had me gawking for considerable length of time. My first day of exploration began from Umed Bhavan – the government circuit house.
I stepped out into a rare combination of spongy clouds and scorching heat. To satisfy my salivating taste buds, I followed my nose to a food street with hawkers screaming out “Dabeli”. I decided to jump right into it and try out the local taste and one dabeli was just not enough!
I spotted a rickshaw stand, and chose my ride, while I began working through my to-see list.
For Rs.400, I had a wonderful day that included Bhujodi – an art & craft haat mela, (local fair), Tridevi Mandir, Aina Mahal, Parag Mahal, Hamisar Lake, Kutch Museum, Bhuj Memorial and a visit to the folk museum. I returned to my home bed with a tired body and a smile on my face.
Sleeping outdoors at night was like a dream to me. The crystal clear starry sky and dry weather was truly memorable. I got up early morning, excited and wondering what else to catch up today! First place for the day was the Ramkund Step Well, from where I headed to Khavda – the village of potters and craftsmen. Here I experienced the iconic camel ride, (yes, it was bumpy!).We went all the way till flamingo’s colony, though I did not spot very few of them, a few cranes and some colourful birds.
After this I moved on towards ‘the black hills’, located 25 kms from Khavda. The view was awesome. The strong gusty air current and the soulful wind rustling the trees gave out a feel of achievement as this is the highest point of Kutch around 462m above the ground.
What’s a tour of Gujarat without the Garba dance! I did experience this local dance and enjoyed a few twirls. My inhibition melted away as I found many friends, dancing to the feet-tapping tunes of the local music.
Keeping the best for the last, I visited the world’s famous “Rogan Art”, the Khatri family on my last day in Bhuj. To meet pioneers, I headed to a village named “Nirona”. The name Rogan Art was emphasized in bold far from the entrance street. After visiting Gaffur Bhaiya’s Rogan Museum I understood why it’s unique and why Mr. Narendra Modi always presents “the tree of life” at all national level meets. It’s a must to visit place for all travel lovers.
According to Indian culture, copper bells and its relaxing tingles brings happiness home and keep evil away. With this premise, I bought a copper bell from the local craftsmen. Next, I stopped at wooden art and craft community where I was baffled by the speed and accuracy of their talent. In the end I treated myself to a sumptuous Gujarati lunch thali (Yes, it was unlimited!) and doodh mawa was like cherry on top.
When a place is an amalgamation of ancient tradition and history, there will be ample reasons to explore. After my trip to Bhuj ended, my backpack boasted priceless memorabilia and my mind struggled to digest the fact that the trip had come to an end! However, I was excited about my next destination: Junagadh!