શુક્રવાર, 7 ઑક્ટોબર, 2011

Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India

The Rann of Kutch, an area of 18,000 sq km, lies almost entirely within Gujarat along the border with Pakistan. The Little Rann of Kutch extends northeast from the Gulf of Kutch over 5,100 sq km. Once an extension of the Arabian Sea, the Rann ("salt marsh") has been closed off by centuries of silting. During Alexander's time it was a navigable lake, but is now an extensive mudflat, inundated during the monsoons, salty and cracked otherwise. Settlement is limited to low, isolated hills. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica]
When I visited the Rann in April, 2006, the highs were already soaring past 110 F. The best way to see it, as I did, is in a 4WD stocked with lots of water. Dotting the parched landscape are desolate desert-like encampments, where a family or two combine forces to eke out a living by mining salt from the saline ground water, the biggest local industry. Legend has it that even after a salt worker dies and is cremated, the soles of his feet survive - a lifetime of labor in the salt pans bakes them so hard that even fire cannot fully burn them.* Tata lorries transport their salt to small trading villages along a railway line. In the dry season, such villages host veritable hillocks of salt as far as the eye can see, where it's packed and sent out on trains.
Kutch is also home to numerous tribal groups, whose attire often adds a dash of color to the otherwise dull desert monotones. Many, such as the Rabari, are still nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists (these photos only show women, children, and older men with the camels; the younger men were out tending their sheep and would converge in the evening at a designated place, where the women would setup the tents and cook).
In the monsoons, parts of the Rann fill up with seasonal brackish water and some locals harvest shrimp in it. They abandon their boats afterwards in the barren salty mudflats, creating a rather surreal scene for the spring/summer-time visitor. Heat mirages abound, making distant objects hover strangely above the land. The Little Rann is also a wildlife sanctuary that protects the Asiatic wild ass, a shy and handsome animal that can sprint at 70 km/h. Down to about 2,800 in number, they depend on the few grassy islands, or bets, nourished by monsoon rains. The sanctuary also contains a large number of local and migratory birds, especially flamingos, at its many wetlands. A memorable experience was to go wading knee-deep into the warm waters of a salt marsh with thousands of flamingos around.             

સોમવાર, 14 માર્ચ, 2011

Kotay Village, Kutch

35 Km. towards the North of Bhuj, Kotay can be reached by bus. One can see the architectural remains of an old city and several ruined temples of the tenth century in Kotay. The shiv or suryani temple known as Rao Lakho Fulani`s temple and ascribed to Lakho Fulani is in a dilapidated condition but its remains are an evidence of high ordered of architectural and sculptural beauty. In this temple the central area is covered with massive slabs hollowed out in the centre. The door of the temple is neatly carved. Over the lintel are the nine patrons of the planets and the jambs are carefully sculptured. In the entrance hall mandap are four pillars with a square block sculptured below the bracket and six pilasters.

The shrine door is elaborately carved with two rows of figures on the frieze. The Ganpati on the temple and the jambs are richly ornamented. The ceiling of the temples is richly carved with rasmandal and lotus. This area was famous as an Angorgadh in the tenth century.

Ahirs, Rabaris and Harijans are the main residents of Kotay. This little town has a population of only 697 people.

Kera , Kutch

Situated dramatically on the rear of the river Nagmati, Kera is about 22Km South of Bhuj on the Mundra road. It was the seat of Kapilmuni and was known as Kapilgram. Lakho Fulani built a fort which later became famous as "Kapilkor" or "Kera fort". In this fort he renovated the Shivalaya of Lakheswar. The old Shiva temple, built perhaps at the end of tenth century, was except for the shrine destroyed by the earthquake of 1819. The sculptures of the Shivalaya are attractive and beautiful. In the time of Gulamalishah Kera recovered to some extent. Gulamalishah was a descendent of Pir Sadruddin and is said to have come from Sindh. Kera is populated mainly by Kanbis and Khojas who are progressive cultivators. There are two Swaminarayan Temples. The old Shiva temple is protected by the state Archeology Department.

Dhrang , Kutch

Dhrang is about 40Km from Bhuj and it is known for the Samadhi of the famous Saint Makad Dada, who died here. Dada Makad was born in village called Nani Khombhadi. Dada Makad in his younger days specialized in rescuing people who where dying of thirst in the terrible wastes of the Rann. Makad Dada`s dog Motia would scent out the sufferers, his donkey Lalia would follow afterwards and would carry the sufferers to the shelter where the saint would care for them. Makad Dada is the St. Christopher of Kutch, the patron saint whose blessings assure a safe journey. When he became the Guru of Maharao Deshal, every one in Kutch knew that their ruler fully deserved the blessing which had come to him.

The popular Stories which describe the relationship between Maharao Deshal and Makad Dada show the Maharao exhibiting a healthy skepticism towards Makad Dada. For example when Makad Dada had taken up his duties as the Maharao`s spiritual advisor, the Maharao heard that a lady was residing with Saint. Anxious to inform himself about a situation which was causing gossip, the Maharao once presented himself before the saint`s lodging at midnight. He was admitted and he found the saint in the shape of a tiny infant, with the lady as his mother. The saint rebuked the Maharao. "We are ascetics and you are king: please never come and test us like this in our Ashram. You disturb our meditation. "The Maharao asked if he could now receive advice on his difficulties of he observed this instruction. Makad Dada told him to set up an idol, with appropriate ceremonies at a particular place in Bhuj. This idol under the guidance of the saint, would answer any questions which were addressed to it before eight o`clock in the morning and would convey to the Maharao the advice of Mekad Dada on any difficult matter. The Place where idol use to reside near Nagar Chakla is still remembered but the story goes that some mistake in procedure was made which after a short time prevented the method from working well so that the Maharao had to resort directly to Makad Dada again.

There are the samadhis of Madad Dada and his disciples including the dog Motia and donkey Lalia at Dhrang Makad Dada served the people of Kutch and won their devotion. He is believed to be a God. The followers of Makad Dada are spread over the district of Kutch, Banaskanth, Saurashtra and some parts of Rajasthan. A large fair is held on Magh Vad - 14 Mahshivratri. Dhrang has a population of 548 citizens.

Mandvi, Kutch

Mandvi is situated on the sea shore 60 kms to the south of Bhuj. It was established by Rao Khengarji in 1585. Earlier it was a famous harbour. It was connected with South Africa, Zanzibar, Arabia, Malaysia, China and Japan; Navigators of Mandvi were famous all over the world. Mandvi traders have been very popular in and around India. Mandvi Port is a site to see which is developed by Maharao Shree Khengarji-I in 1580 A.D. The kings of Kutch called the commercial people for development of Mandvi. According to Millburn (a writer), Mandvi is one of the great port of Kutch. There is a large amount of ships in Mandvi. Mandvi Port has its individual history. This port is not in much progress now but many boats and ships are made here nowadays. Today, Mandvi is known for its port and sea. Mandvi is also has a famous for its ship building yards and for its blue water serene bleaches.8 kms from Mandvi is the eye-catching summer place built in the perfect Rajasthani architect by Maharao Vijayrajji in 1929.

The other places of interest are the Ravalpir beach and the Asharmata temple which has soft sand blue water seashore. Mandvi is famous for its tie-dye, silver work and for its stunning architecture. With a population if 36,636, Mandvi has the friendliest people residing here.

Dhinodhar , Kutch

Where historical entropy is concerned, each and every town of Kutch is overflowing with material. On the highest peak of Dhinodhar hill in the north-west of Kutch is a small domed shrine of limestone and mud, plastered with cement, built by a Sunderji Shivji Sodagar in 1831. It is dedicated to holy Dhoramnath who came to Kutch in search of a secluded place where he could practice penance. He decided to make his home under a tree near Rajpur, which is on the borders of Mandvi creek. This site now occupied only by a hamlet was at one time a flourishing city as its ruins testify. Finds of Indo Persian coins are evidence of an extensive seaborne trade though it is very far from any navigable water. At the time when Dhoramnath arrived, Raipur is said to have been ruled by the Chavdas.

Dhoramnath began the twelve-year penance, which he had set himself and it was the business of his wants. But the people or Raipur were so lacking in respect for the saint that Garibnath`s hopes of alms were belied. To support his master he was obliged to cut and sell fire wood to buy grain needed to keep his master and himself alive. One poor woman in the city took pity on them and without payment baked the grain into bread adding chapattis from her own stove when the fire-wood money ran short. When Dhoramnath had completed his penance he learned what had happened and in great wrath, rather then sending the charitable woman to another town cursed her by saying "Pattan sub Dattan" meaning "May all the wealthy be overthrown."

Thereupon Raipur became desolate; its buildings fell, and its inhabitants fied to the site which is now Mandvi. The confirmation of this story is the distance the sea has retreated from what must once have been a flourishing sea port. There seems no doubt that Dhoramath caused an earthquake to destroy the city and dry up the creek near Raipur. Dhoramath repented the loss of lives in Raipur and determined to mortify himself by standing on his head on some lonely hill. A gazette writer reported. "Travelling to the north he began to climb the highest hill he could sec, but it became nano (smaller) weighted down by his sins. He chose another hill but for it too, the burden of guilt was too great and it became jhurio. "Broken down". He chose a third hill ad climbing it backwards it bore him. He called it Dhinodhar "the patience bearer" At its highest peak resting on a conical stone he stood on his head for twelve years, with a charan woman feeding him with milk, such merit and power did this penance bring, that Gods took alarm and sending a deputation to wait on him asked that his penance should cease. Dhoramnath said wherever he first looked the country would become barren. The gods arranged that he should first look at the sea. This dried up under his gaze and left the Rann. Fearing that the death of so many fish would lose him his merit, Dhoramnath moved his eyes and looking at the hill it split into two.

Dhoramnath came down, kindled a fire built a monastery and established the order of the Kanphata`s (Slitcared), so called as the disciple of this order has to slit their cars. The kanphatas have to remain celebrate and newcomers are recruited either from orphans or from boys who enter the monastery from an early age. The head is called the Pir. He usually adopts two disciples, one of whom is chosen as his successor. In former times the Pir was always presented with a robe of honour by the ruler of Kutch. Rato Raydhan, son of Lakho, sought enlists the powers of Garibnath in support of his efforts to subdue some Jat tribesmen who were giving him trouble. With help of Garibnath Rato Raydhan defeated the Jats. In gratitude he made gifts of land to the Dhinodhar monastery. These are the earliest gifts of which the Kanphata community has any record and were made in the 12th century.

In the shrine dedicated to Dhoramnath is a red smeared triangular conical stone on which Dhoramnath is conical stone on which Dhoramnath is said to have rested his head while performing penance. At the foot of the hill within the monastery building is another temple of Dhoramnath on a raised platform, facing the east, about seven feet square and with wall about seven feet high. Inside is a three feet high marble image of Dhoramnath with some small lings and other brass and stone images. A ghee lamp is always kept burning. A fair is held here on shravan Vad-8 and Mahashivratri. (Feb-March).

Dhoramnath is 60 m from Bhuj and 20 Km from Nakhatrana. A Bus leaves Bhuj at 5 P.M. 1Km near to the village of Godhiar is a Rajput sattlement. The Rajputs migrated from Pakistan during the 1971, Indo-Pak war. They do beautiful embroidery called "Soof". 10Km away is a village called Fulay where there is a bird`s sanctuary.

Baladiya , Kutch

Baladiya is about 18Km. from Bhuj and its name is derived from the temple of Baldeshwar Mahadev. A legend relates that a saint named Bhaganath once drove his cart without bullocks here. From that incident the place came to be known as Baladiya. This place is also known for the Kanphata Sadhu`s Jagir.

The Swaminarayan Saint Abji Bapa was born in this village in 1845. Abji Bapa took Samadhi here, on Ashad Sud - 5 1929. Two Chhatries containing his padukas have been constructed by his padukas have been constructed by his followers, on the bank of Krishna Talav where he was cremated. Fairs are held at this village on Mahashivratri and the Janmashtami and are attended by the locals. The village is inhabited by Kanbis. Some of them have migrated to Africa and England. Baladiya has a population of 3,893 people.