Nature is unforgiving here in Dholavira at Khadir Bet (an island on the Rann of Kutch Lake). During the monsoon, the landscape remains flooded, marshy when the waters recede, scorching hot in the summer, and bitterly cold in the winter. As we drive down to Dholavira, vast swaths of salt deposits greet us on both sides of the blacktop route, barren and devoid of vegetation, providing us with a unique perspective, and a feel 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 world’s largest such deposits.
However, our outlook changes quickly to one of wonder when we interact with the tribal community here. Respect grows for the inhabitants’ unmatched resilience to harsh living conditions while building cultural and unique traditions. The men wear milk-white kurta pajamas while women wear handcrafted melange colors 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 Harappan civilization’s cradle 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 present a picture of a previously flourishing life. The belief is that the Indus River’s tributary once flowed close to this location until an earthquake changed the river’s course and their lives forever. Climatic changes and drought too played a role in hastening the end.
At the Kotada Timba, it wasn’t easy to point out which of the Harappan civilization township planning was better. Their precision skills come through shining examples, such as chiseling of rocks and boulders to the size of cuboid blocks. It looks similar to our modern-day building bricks, albeit varying sizes (huge, big, and small, with a broad mixture of color 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 the fortification of their citadel and their circular homes, build a maze of drainage systems, construct colossal 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, you come across massive boulders lying around a little distance away from Kotada Timba. Except that, when you step forward for a closer look, you understand it is petrified wood (original plant material becoming a stone by mineralization 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 Rann of Kutch Lake’s blue waters 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 lake’s freshwaters, gently brushing our feet, prompting us to leave many black designer footprints contrasting with the white salt deposits.
Our maps pointed out to the stretch of land that had just dried up to reveal the salt marshes fit enough to take 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 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 the 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, and it became clear that it was all salt wherever you see, 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.
This tour was made possible by Reetu Yadav and Jamila Kapasi fromThe Great Escape.
Contact: thegreatesc.in to have a peek at the many great escapes they provide.
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