Rann of Kutch – Dholavira at Khadir Bet

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Dholavira Salt Flats
Dholavira Salt Flats

Nature is unforgiving here in Dholavira at Khadir Bet (island on the Rann of Kutch Lake). The terrain remains under flood waters during monsoon, marshy when the waters recede, extremely hot during summer and freezing cold during winters. Greeting us, on both sides of the black topped road, as we drive down to Dholavira, are vast extents of salt deposits, barren with hardly any vegetation, giving us the impression of being in the middle of nowhere. We are at the Rann of Kutch, the North Western end of Gujarat, famous for their salt flats, which are among the largest such deposits in the world. 

However, our outlook changes quickly to one of wonder, when we interact with the tribal community here. Respect grows for their unmatched resilience to harsh living conditions, while building culture and traditions unique to them. The men wear milk white kurta pyjamas while women wear handcrafted melange of colours with a lot of mirror work. Chief among their primary occupations is the rearing of goats and camels, and this is quite visible as we cross herds along the way.

Dholavira served as the cradle of Harappan civilization that lasted 1200 years between 2650 BC and 1450 BC. It is interesting to note that the latitude “Tropic of Cancer” passes through this place. Located between the Mansar river stream and the Manhar river stream, the Kotada Timba ruins, presents a picture of a previously flourishing life. It is believed that a tributary of the Indus River once flowed close to this location until an earthquake changed the course of the river and their lives forever. Climatic changes and drought too played a role in hastening the end. 

At the Kotada Timba it was difficult to point out which of the Harappan civilization township planning was better. Their precision skills come through shining examples such as chiselling of rocks and boulders to the size of cuboid blocks, the looks of which is much similar to our modern day building bricks albeit of varying sizes (huge, big and small, with a broad mixture colour hues from white to pink to golden to grey and black). It is a real treat to the eyes.  

Their engineering skills extend to erecting bricklayer stone walls for fortification of their citadel as well as for their circular homes, build a maze of drainage systems, construct huge water reservoirs and develop underground water channels running across the township. Despite the desert conditions, the water remained abundant. Water conservation and usage here are at par with the best we have today. 

Walking along the green pathway down the mound towards the wood fossils park, a little distance away from Kotada Timba, you come across massive boulders lying around. Except that, when you step forward for a closer look, you understand it is petrified wood (original plant material becoming a stone by mineralisation process). Jaws drop on realizing that these fibrous wood fossils belong to the Jurassic age (about 187 million years ago). Today the only plants around in plenty are thorny bushes and cactus.

Flying over the blue waters of the Rann of Kutch Lake, are the flamingos with their pink, black and white feathers complimenting the orange evening skies, while happily swinging from one direction to another within seconds, in random formations.  Not to be left behind in captivating us, are the fresh waters of the lake, gently brushing our feet, prompting us to leave a multitude of black designer footprints contrasting with the white salt deposits. 

Our maps pointed out to the stretch of land which had just dried up to reveal the salt marshes fit enough for taking a gingerly walk on it. Driving down a couple of kms from our resort, we halted our vehicle on the roadside, either side of which were the salt marshes. Jumping about a meter down from the road siding,we got past the thorny bushes that grew on the edge of the road. Effectively these were the only patch of green on this stretch of land. 

The full moon night raised expectations of a different experience. Yet the moon chose to play hide and seek under dense backlit clouds, causing shifting lights on the salt marshes. Under moonlight the shimmering salt deposits looked like white marble. The serene pleasant atmosphere and the gentle cold breeze also brought with it a peculiar hushed silence. Undoubtedly the thrilling walk on the stretch with the sharp crackling sound under my feet became the highlight of the evening, as was the idea of taking silhouette photographs. 

Come next morning, it became clear that wherever you see, it was all salt, and as far as one can see. It’s a seemingly endless landscape of near nothingness. A place that remained underwater for all of the monsoon had begun to dry up and would last that way through summer.

Credits:
This tour was made possible by Reetu Yadav and Jamila Kapasi of “The Great Escape”.
Contact: thegreatesc.in to have a peek at the many great escapes they provide.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Unarguably your most difficult self-assigned projects till date, Kumar. For, to chronicle three/ four thousand years old habitats with contemporary connotations is an uphill task. What comes out distinctly is the resilience of the natives to inhabit in the ancient, harnessing that basic necessity, salt!

    Made a compelling reading, in nothingness you create kaleidoscope of life in it’s primitive, unornamented form. That is the beauty of it. It is the place that speaks, through an urban, but unadulterated mind.

    Worth reading, many times over. Keep it up.

  2. Compelling reading…..a travel back in time right to the jurrasic era…..your writing so vividly about your experience along with the pictures transports one straight to the site. Excellent Kumar, keep up the passion.

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