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Rann – the desert.
On hearing the word desert, images of huge sand dunes fill up our minds. Winds start blowing suddenly, causing sands to fly-off and shift the dunes. The sandstorm fills up the skyline, hiding the sun. You lose the sense of direction, thoroughly confused. You’re gone for good, if you are lost! The annoying wandering! The picturesque looking Rann turns out to be quite dangerous, if you err so slightly!
Rann of Kutch!
Well, why add one full word – Of Kutch! I Isn’t a desert the desert, be it that of Kutch or Rajasthan or Sahara. A Desert has to be, the desert, beautiful and dangerous. What a sheer wastage of one sentence!
This is where you are mistaken. Rann of Kutch is temperamentally different from other deserts of the world. It does not bear any characteristics of the desert, neither sand-dunes nor oases. It is only a barren land. Full of sea-waters for eight months in a year, it brims with layers of caked salt when dry. It shines out like polished silver, the moment bright sunlight falls on Rann. This is why mirages are more dangerous here. It can take anyone to a ride. Rann of Kutch is an ocean of salt. Hence the Rann it has been, and not the desert. Totally dry! Muddy-grey! Shining at Noon! Cold at pitch dark night! If you are acquainted with it, you would fall in love, or else …..
By and large, Kutch is dry. Rains are irregular and scanty. High temperatures accelerate evaporation of whatever water the land has received. The land, therefore, remains dry most of the time. As a result, the vegetation is also quite sparse, forests are unimaginable. In most places, the land is rocky and flat; open and rough. It is so greyish that pinches the eyes. Grey sky, grey land, and white desert create a sense of melancholy in the ambience. One sees blank colourless landscape for miles on. Hence, obviously, the thin population is widely spread, lead a very ordinary life, has a sense of emptiness, the behaviour is rough, and the life is dull.
However, the way of people’s life at the boundary of Rann is as much different as compared to that of other deserts, like the difference in comparative ecology.
The reason is strength of the Kutchis to fight the odds.
Parched land, adjacency to Rann and next-to-nothing infrastructure facilities – make the struggle inevitable. No surprise that people have become listless and life has become achromatic.
However, Kutchi people, in contact with ecology of Rann, are lively. They have sixth sense which discovers music and colours from this silence and colour-devoid state and enlivens the Rann with strains of music and rainbow.
This is first visible in their houses. The houses, in and around Rann have unique shape – cylindrical base and conical roof – known as ‘Bhoonga’- and are made from the mix of wood, grass and mud and are totally eco-friendly. Further surprise awaits no sooner you enter these houses – a colourful interior décor and vivid patterns in storage arrangement of utensils. Your eyesight starts following these psychedelic arrangements, causing your body also to swing in synchronous harmony. The sight is simply irresistible.
And well, you will ever forget that you are in the midst of Rann the moment you enter Bhoonga, see it and feel the excitement.
The people of the region have developed knack of extracting mounds of seven colours from the grey of the ambience, to colour up their Bhoongas and dresses with these colours and thus awash the atmosphere with the rainbow.
We may call this ‘handicraft’, because it is seen to be done with the aid of hands. But here it becomes ’Art-of-seeing’. These people have cultivated the art of seeing colours from within and through the environment and then fill them up in their lives. The artisans of this region express their view of the life through several media, irrespective of strong winds or scorching heat or freezing cold in the adjacent Rann. Their hands seem to work through their eyes.
In fact, these handicrafts seem to have transformed the mood of Rann and its people, thereby creating a distinctly unique ecosystem that takes you through a deep dive into ethereal feel beyond any description and into a deep trance of happiness.
What a range of handicrafts these capable-to-see-through people have created!
The most spectacular among these is ‘Dhadaki’, what we urbanites know as quilt. Making of quilt may be a ‘job‘to us, but these Rann-ites have transformed it into an ‘art’. Ridiculous it may sound, but Dhadaki is made from pieces of clothes, well almost, the rags. Dhadaki is kaleidoscopic arrangement of these simple rags, stitched into a Dhadaki quilt. The female artists dip these Dhadakis into the rainbow of colours, floating in their minds. The sight of Dhadaki is breath-taking in terms of multitudes of colours and range of the artists’ imagination.
Similar is the interplay of colourful threads and cloth in Kutchi-stich work, resulting in the colourful art- form. Dark colours are used in this Kutch-stich work. Red is most profusely used colour to keep the blood warm in the otherwise dull life. It sustains the excitement in the life.
And what a powerful sense of the artisans’ imagination! Oh well, you would never ever tire of seeing the file lines on the edge of the cloth, the variety of emerging designs , shapes, mirror-work. The stich-work and those who wear it reflect the beauty of this Rann as well as that of their lives. The stich-work represents the combined dance form of tradition and imagination, thereby help defeat the dull environment of Rann.
Similar is the stich-work on leather. It is no mean feat to create beauty onto the skin of dead animals! Use of small needle [known as ‘Aar’ in local parlance] and threads give rise to shapes of fish, flower, Peacock, — onto the leather! The first sight of its intricacy and tenderness engulfs our body and generates a deep thrill.
And what about ‘Rogaan’ – the wall paintings! The traditional figures are intricately painted on the walls and then splashed up with colours. One such artisan equals to thousands in tems of range of designs and colors..
Similar fantastic work is that of ‘vadha’ artisans, too. They shape the wood. They transform wood into different shaped figures and then colour them up. The viewer would be spell bound into seeing intricate binding of blending of different colours when they take up colouring of this wood-work. These carefree – those who live and sleep under the trees, have not even dreamt of alphabet – artisans remind those who built Taj Mahal, when they take up colouring of the wood-work.
The ‘Kharaki’ lends tune to these colours. We know these as bells. They give shape to their imagination through the work on simple metal sheets. Each ‘Kharaki’ chimes in different scales. Chiming of Kharaki around the neck of animals creates the symphony of sweet clinking of bells, seemingly transforming Rann into a temple. The mind moistens up lush green and fine-tuned amidst the dry atmosphere.
There are many more such other handicrafts. Roaming in the Rann has its own charm. The colourful atmosphere of Arabian Nights is created if you can ‘listen’ to these handicrafts. You can recreate the pleasure of ‘safari’ in any other desert while listening and seeing to these handicrafts. [Fair of Dhranga is all these rolled into one!]
This why Rann of Kutch is ‘unique’, having ‘festivals’ every moment. It constantly entices you to enjoy its beauty.
— Translation of Chapter ‘ભૂખરા રણમાં મેઘધનુષ્ય અને સંગીતનો સમન્વય’ @ pages # 65 – 68
From the book: “કચ્છઃ વિહંગાવલોકન”
First Edition: July 2011
Author: Haresh Dholakia firstname.lastname@example.org
Publishers: Goorjar Granthratna Karyalay email@example.com
ISBN 987 -81-8480-596-3