Tag great rann of kutch

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Have an authentic shopping experience in Kutch

The pretty Hiralal Memorial Craft Park (shopping complex) at Bhujodi
The pretty Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park (shopping complex)

Recently we had an authentic shopping experience that I am excited to recount. In Feb, this year we visited the Rann of Kutch and shopped for handicrafts. Located in Kutch in Gujarat it is a hotbed of handmade products like jewelry, home furnishing, kurtas etc. The best part is that you can buy directly from the artisans. If you read my previous blog you will know that we lived in Hodka village and bought our goods locally. We also bought products from Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park,the Handicraft center, in Bhujodi that sources products from all over Gujarat. 

The friendly villagers and artisans of Hodka village where we bought handicrafts
The little artists of Hodka village

Gujarati hospitality is legendary, hence In Hodka, where we were staying, the entire village came to show us their products. The children were especially cute. We were set up in one of the villager’s house, in traditional ‘Bhunga’ style and sitting on a charpoy, we could choose from all the products. The villagers offered us tea (which many small businesses across India do) and were made to feel at home. While the artisans maybe exposed to people from all over the world it was refreshing to buy from them. 

Can you put a price tag on art?

I was in awe of the handwork. The local women wear long tunics and skirts completely covered in hand embroidery and mirror work. To say that they are talented is an understatement. 

The colourful handicrafts on display at Hodka village
The colorful handicrafts on display

Apparently, you can put a price tag on art. Here I have a small anecdote to share: The villagers offered us silver jewellery to buy. It was not real silver, however the design was unique. I was pushing my friends not to bargain as I was 100% sure you would not get the same design in Mumbai. I was promptly ejected out of the room. Tell me what would you do in my place?

Handicrafts to buy in Kutch: 

Ladies and gents, while this is not an extensive list, we have you covered. By a quorum of 4 we have divided the products into must buys and optional things you can pick up:

The diverse handicrafts of Kutch
The beautiful handicrafts of Kutch on display

MUST BUYS

Mashru Shawls: The Mashru Shawls look smart and are versatile to wear for different occasions. Besides, Mashru fabric is made of silk and cotton making it appropriate for summer . Available at Bhujodi

Furnishings: One can pick up Bed covers/Pillow covers/Table cloths/ wall hangings all with lovely Indian motifs in good quality cotton.However, beware, one of us tried to wash the bed covers and the color ran.

Khadi material for the boys: The Khadi material store at Bhujodi had affordable material that was also great for the summer. We bought it for one of our fathers and he stitched it into a kurta.

Silver Jewelry:The silver jewelry designs are unique tribal designs and worth the buy just for that. We bought from Hodka village and bargained hard for them.

Bird Whistles: These are available in clay/ceramic and make eccentric gifts. Dip them in water and then use them and it will sound like the chirping of birds. These products were only available at the Rann Utsav.

OPTIONAL BUYS:

Gujarati Shawls: These are in distinct Gujarati style, if you have too many shawls, you can give these a pass.

Handmade toys: We picked up handmade cloth toys like camels and horses that make great gifts for children

Bead work jewelry: Made by the young girls in the village, some of the styles were quite funky . Hence, I had to buy them.

Copper Décor:I picked up a copper wind chime (pictured) from Bhujodi. It was atleast 80% less than what it would cost in Mumbai. It’s currently hanging in my balcony.

Whenever I visit a new place I always search about what things I can buy. It adds to the anticipation of the trip. I would highly recommend the experience of buying directly from the village. But whether you buy or not the whole experience is priceless.

Pro tip:You can bargain. However even at MRP all the products we bought were atleast 50% less than what we would buy from online/Mumbai.

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Alluring Rann of Kutch

Rann of Kutch salt pans
The great white desert

After travelling a lot more in India, I realised that my own country was not only affordable but one of the loveliest to explore. The Rann of Kutch is no exception. I remember photographs of friends taken there, quite a few years back. Since then I have always wanted to visit this place. In 2019, I finally got the opportunity.

Think twice before going

The Rann of Kutch is approximately 620kms flight away from Mumbai so it’s quite a trip. The climate is harsh. Since we visited in Feb we had better weather, winter was still around. While it was hot and sunny during the day, the nights were cold. However, we were assured that December was worse.

Given the distance there are two ways to travel to Kutch, from Ahmedabad or Bhuj. Direct flights to Bhuj are expensive though convenient. It is the district capital and close to Kutch. But with a little bit of stretch, you can take a train/flight to Ahmedabad and then a bus to Bhuj and onwards to Kutch. Just to give you an idea coming from Ahmedabad it is half the cost of the direct flight but easily double the time. We exercised the latter option.

Don’t think at all just go

Despite the inconvenience of getting there (especially if you use the scenic route) I realised that Gujarat culture is worth exploring: 

Local Gujarat costume
We tried on the local costume

Gujarat Handicrafts:The one thing that should be on your list to buy is the handicrafts available in the region. They are not as expensive as in the metros. I have dedicated an entire blog to this because the handicrafts are so interesting and diverse.

The whole shopping experience:The best part is that you go to the village from where they are made and shop for the products. It’s a different experience to buy from the artisans directly. Since we lived in Hodka village we went next door and bought some pretty things. They were hospitable and many members of the village came to meet us and offered us tea. It became like shopping from your neighbours.

Bhungas at Vodka village
The Bhungas at Hodka village

Experience the Kutch culture:Most of the resorts are run by locals and they make sure you have an authentic experience. You get to live in Bhungas or circular houses made of mud, with thatched roofs. They are supposed to be structurally stable during earthquakes and climate responsive. The pure vegetarian food is what the locals eat. Here I must relate an anecdote :

Eating Non-Veg food in Gujarat

Our driver happened to be Muslim and we became friends. While complaining about the lack of non-veg food we requested him to take us to a good place for non-veg. He took us up on the offer.In a little non-descript place called Luckys (no relation to our bandra stalwart) we ate some great mutton biryani. The meat was actually falling of the bone as well as chicken and paratha that was lip smacking good. Hence this was the surprise element of the trip, our wish of getting a good non-veg meal fulfilled in a staunchly veg place like Gujarat. Talk about Indian jugaad (flexible approach to problem solving)! 

Last but not least

Evening sets at the Rann of Kutch
Sunsets at the Rann of Kutch

The Landscape: The great Rann of Kutch is a landscape, I had neither seen nor experienced before. You see nothing but white plains (the salt pans) as far as the eye can see. Definitely visit during sunrise and sunset. As this is the time that you feel the impact of the vastness. Everything begins to make sense. The sun rises as if from the ground and it is the only thing you can focus on. You wonder if you walk upto it, can you touch it? No picture or video can do it justice. Watching this scene alone will make the trip worth it.

Vijay Vilas Palace at Bhuj
Love this shot from the Vijay Vilas Palace at Bhuj

Bhuj Attractions: There is not much to see around Kutch with the main attractions in Bhuj.So, the first day as we arrived we travelled back to Bhuj from where our friends were taking their plane. We did some sightseeing at the Vijay Vilas palace and the Mandvi beach. Both places were lovely. There is also a cultural centre at Bhujodi that was not far off where we shopped! More on that later.

Lastly don’t worry about the Rann Utsav(Festival) we missed most of it, but it looked like a big shopping mela. Exploring the villages like we did is something I would choose over that anytime. So as Amitabh Bachhan says hope you guys are encouraged to ‘Breathe in a bit of Gujarat’ with this article. 



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