Gujarati woman inside mud bhunga cladded with typical kuchi harijan jewelry and rajasthani embroidered clothes and wearing big amusing grin. Kutch is an island bordered by the largest natural salt flats in the world. How this happened to the once influential State is discussed alongside the volatile geology, a brief and unusual history, and the remarkable people and places in this remote part of India. 

Over 100 different tribes have been recorded in the area of Kutch, many of them originating in Iran, Afghanistan and what is Pakistan today. Life remained the same for them over centuries and it is them we have to thank for Kutch's reputation in world class textile handicrafts.

Kachchh literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district known as Rann of Kachchh is shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The same word is also used in the languages of Sanskrit origin for a tortoise and garments to be worn while having a bath.

Kutch is famous for crafts and embroidery works. Kutch is also famous for its Flamingo Sanctuary and Wild Ass Sanctuary. Bhuj is an ideal starting point to visit the Rann of Kutch.

This is one of the hottest areas of India. Portrait of a woman from the Marwada Meghwal Harijan tribe wearing traditional clothing in the village of Bhirendiara, located roughly 50km from Bhuj in the Kutch District.

Tribes in the Rann of Kutch

The haunted and mysterious wasteland between India and Pakistan

Close your eyes and imagine the utter emptiness. A white nothingness — a brilliant, frost-colored land — fat as an ice lake, burning the eyes with its whiteness. Not a bump, not a shrub, not a bird, not a breeze. Nothing but white I every direction, horizon after horizon, on and on for over two hundred miles east to west, and almost one hundred miles north to south.

This is the Rann of Kutch, the largest area of nothingness on the planet; uninhabited, the ultimate physical barrier, separating India from Pakistan along its far western border.

Only camels can cross these wastes, and at terrible cost. During the monsoon season it's a shallow salt marsh, carrying the seasonal rivers of Rajasthan slowly out to the Arabian Sea, just south of the great Idus Delta of Pakistan. Then for months it's a treacherous quagmire of molasses mud under a brittle salt skin. Periods of safe crossing are minimal. Occasional piles of bleached bones attest to the terrors of this place. Tales of survivors, reluctantly told, are unrelieved litanies of human (and animal) distress. There is life out here — herds of wild asses the size of large dogs and vast flocks of flamingoes encamped mud-nest "cities" — but very hard to find.

The different tribal groups that now live in Kutch have migrated there from countries as diverse as present day Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and other areas in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The textiles of each of these groups evolved through necessity as portable vessels, furnishings, and items of clothing. Each community and tribal group has it`s own lexicon of motifs and embroidery stitches. Other craft techniques, such as batik and beading, have been imported into Kutch through sea trade with other countries.

Photography by Michael Svec

 

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