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Kutch, India: an insiderís guide by Carole Douglas of Desert Tradition
01 October 2016

GO: Far from the tourist hot spots of India lies a remote region where life keeps pace with the rising and setting of the sun. In Kutch, in Gujarat state, western India, herders and their animals, farmers and their crops, and artisans and their crafts remain true to a way of life that has changed little over time. Off the beaten track for most western tourists, those who make the journey to the area's traditional communities cannot help but be captivated by the people and their unique culture.

DISCOVER: The trails of Kutch meander through historic Indus Valley sites and colourful bazaars and markets such as those found at Mandvi, where visitors can buy anything from a religious idol to a mobile phone, a buffalo bell to a beanbag, a charpoy (bedstead) to a chocolate cake and just about everything in between. Be sure to stop by the Serena Beach Resort Mandvi for lunch or dinner; it's one of the best culinary experiences in the region with sweeping views of the ocean.

The trail past Mandvi winds west to the deserted city of Lakhpat on the Arabian coast, taking in the grasslands of the Banni, the salt-encrusted Great Rann, the wetlands of the Chari Dhand and the fishing village of Jakhau.

EXPERIENCE: The Aina Mahal Museum, set in an 18th-century palace, and the incredible gift store at the Living and Learning Design Centre in the city of Bhuj offer insights into the local fabric of life. The Sufi tombs in Lakhpat and Temples in Bhujodi provide glimpses into religious beliefs, and thali-style dining promises a sublime taste sensation. There are delights around every corner; none greater than meeting a Rabari caravan or a herd of wild ass while on safari on the Little Rann of Kutch. Stay at Rann Riders, an ethically designed eco-resort set among wetlands.

CREATE: Kutch is known for its textiles and workshops with master artisans who offer visitors the opportunity to learn the art of indigo dyeing, the precision of wooden block printing, and the intricacy of bandhani (fine tie and dye). There is something memorable about learning the language of traditional stitch and craft under a thatched roof in the Banni while the village goes about its daily life.

Carole Douglas is director of Desert Traditions, a company specialising in off-the-beaten-track travel. She is curating the pastoral crafts of Kutch for an exhibition in Delhi in December. kutchhis globally , from Mumbai

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