Gujarat Ke Gaddhe..a desert famous for its Ass ( little Rann of Kutch)

My first thought on meeting LRK( Little Raan of kutch)- By all evidence we are in this part of the world to do nothing…..We encountered Nothingness the moment we stepped into the Raan…It felt so silent….It was kind of scary !

Welcome to The LITTLE RANN OF KUTCH – the word ‘little’ is a misnomer as this (Raan) desert is not at all little ! LRK is a marsh land in  Gujarat…It is famous for its Gaddhe or Wild ASS( Khur). It is the only place in the world,where this handsome animal is found galloping around in glory…..

NGS Picture ID:1298522

source: http://bit.ly/2nxnDRA

The area is plain dry, vegetation is sparse..Flora is almost zero,but the place is rich in Fauna..Specially during winters our (videshi feathered mehmaan) migratory birds troupe the place…waterbirds like cranes, ducks, pelicans, flamingos and land birds like sandgrouse, francolins and the Indian bustards. It is also home to various unique mammals apart from wild ass such as the Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), desert fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla) and nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)….

I shall share the details of how and what to see at Little Rann of Kutch…We started our new venture early as the distance between Ahmadabad and Little Rann of Kutch is around 180 kms. We were on road at around 5:00 Am and reached our destination enjoying a lazy drive at around 11:00 AM. We crossed  a place called Patdi, Fort wall remains  and grand archaic gates advocated its royal past…On returning back, thanks to (Google baba)  I found the following…Patdi is a town and former princely state on Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat. Patdi used to be an estate in Jhalawar prant of Eastern Kathiawar under the rule of (rare) Kunbi Chieftains, styled (Desai) Darbar.source-Wikipedia

Moving ahead,….Our First destination…

Rann Riders(http://www.rannriders.com/). It is a Motel…The only place that we could locate ,where decent food(non veg)/Water/Restrooms/Rooms were available..It is a themed resort…the cottages are made like ‘Kuba’ houses( Huts made of mud)..one can get a feel of real life of a kutchi…(unfortunately I lost most of the pics…courtesy my toddler..She does not let me touch my phone these days..She has denied me access to my own mobile phone..)

IMG-20170403-WA0023.jpg

Kuba house @ Rann Riders..

Anyways I was lucky, as my husband clicked a few pics of LRK from the ordinary camera that we own…We took the lunch buffet ..After (pet pooja), we were becoming impatient for the safari to start..It happened around 3:00pm…Open Jeeps are available with them, We hired one from Raan Riders @4550/- (Advice – Make pre booking with rannriders for food/safari)

Second destination – zaniabad village...

Before entering the desert, One has to take permission from a govt check post located in this village. After doing all the formalities and paying a sum of 500/- we entered the ‘ not so little Raan’….

DSC03647.JPG

There we encountered a mob ( all pretty little girls)..They were all so curious and chirpy. They wanted to know my darling’s name..in seconds the air around was filled with their echos.. MISHI… MISHI… MISHI !!! ( I was happy to see them so happy !)

Third and our final destination LRK…

we kept taking pics to our hearts content !

IMG-20170403-WA0032

Long sheets of Cracked parched land was all that we could see…Occasionally we could spot a few cactus species sprouting ..That is the main source of food for Nilgais and Wild Ass..

 

I kept nagging that I could see huge water body at a distant end, where the land was touching the sky..My driver simply told me ‘Madam you are experiencing chalawa( Mirage)’

 

DSC03706.JPG

Little Raan of kutch has a light brown , to be precise sandy shade unlike Great Raan of Kutch..that is completely white ! This part of land has its own beauty ….You will feel ‘Nothing’ in front of the huge empty before your eyes . It is indeed an unique occurrence

No car honks, No planes, No pollution, No human over-explosion, No buildings, No cars, No roads,No vegetation…The feeling of nothingness is what we experienced at this Rann…The feeling to be alone and be content with your past ,present and future…and while all this was brewing inside us and we were trying to quite my overexcited daughter so as, not to spoil the tranquil outside….She was the first one to spot it ..She referred to it as HORSE !!!( That is the only word,till date that she uses to call any animal).

DSC03673.JPG

we got the darshan of The great Indian WILD ASS ( My daughters horse !)

We spotted a few Nilgais…saw few birds( migratory ones ) at a distance…Satisfied we were back to our Camp site by 6:00 Pm. Had a little snack and it was time to go home….

There is a famous hindi proverb “mushkil ke waqt gaddhe ko bhi baap banana Padta hai”..Sadly the common donkeys( gaddhe) have a very low status  in our society (  compared to other four legged animals)…Certainly these donkey’s of LRK belong to a different world…and it was worth spending on these handsome Gaddhes…

 

 

 

 

Salty tale of Kharaghoda.

Sardar mene apka namak khaya hai !..Remember this iconic dialogue by kalia from the Hindi film ‘Sholay’? Namak or Salt has been associated with loyalty in Indian Society. consuming somebodies salt means to get (wages/rewards/benefits) from someone, thus being indebted to that person for life!

SUGAR and SALT and all that is nice….Saltiness is one of the basic human taste and also essential for life ! This need of saltiness has led to many nations go war over it, It has lead to raising taxes,The best example would be salt march or Dandi march! it is even considered holy by some and thus used in many religious ceremonies . Black is sexy and color is fun…I say White is both ! Today I take you to land of snow white…Only Salt no sugary stuff…KHARAGHODA the homeland of Agarians lies in surendranagar district on the boarder of The Little rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

salt-worker-gujrat

source:http://saltpanworker.blogspot.in/

Before narrating  my expedition in Kharaghoda…Let me reveal the sad history of Agarians…They derive their name from ‘Agra’ city from North India. During British Raj they had a flourishing life and had substantial amount of money and land to their account. The then local Muslim governor took notice and did and offensive sin  ,by demanding their women ! Agarians refused and were imprisoned ! Firsad grandson of the great Sufi saint Moinuddin Chisti became their Savior and freed them ! Agarians converted to Islam as a gesture of gratitude. Now , these people belong to Gujarat and are involved in an very important task of producing salt for the nation. They produce 25% of India’s Salt ! source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surendranagar_district

If you were still with me here.. you will agree with me if I say ..” humne inka( Agarians ) ka Namak khaya hai” ( We have consumed, salt produced by Agarians) ! If we apply the theory of sholay, we should be indebted to them ! But then ,are we? We will discuss on that..lets start with the business of making salt..Salt or NaCl can be obtained by two ways. Number one :Salt mines ( Brine water lakes)and number two from evaporating sea salt.

At Kharaghoda , Salt is obtained from from evaporating water siphoned out of a 25-30 feet brine lake using pumps….

dsc03700

Brine water pouring out of these tubes are made to rest in mud embankments for 5 months..

dsc03703

They are guided through these small canals to settle in different embankments..

dsc03698

Thanks to the generous amount of sunlight received by this area…In 4-5 months Agarians get their gold( SALT)…their only source of income.

Journey of crystallization…

Crystallized salt – The end product….

dsc03635

The next step comes packaging of this product..After these salt crystals are mined out… they are sent to the factory….

dsc03638

SALT DUNE….yes! tonnes of salt crystals lie heaped in these factory…

dsc03639

Closer look – you have to see it to believe it..The sparkle and the glare from these Crystal whites can make you blind…

dsc03633

Pack up time !..I inquired from a factory worker, is this the salt that we eat/use in our food? His version was that these (salt) are exported to Nepal..The salt that we eat is sea salt…

Hindustan salt limited ( HSL) is a company established on 1958 is in the business of salt making in Kharaghoda. This is the only Central Government Public Sector undertaking engaged in the manufacture of salt. The  company salt production works measuring 23,000 acres of land at Kharaghoda. source:http://www.indiansalt.com/profile.htm

At Kharaghoda , I got to know from the official site.that the company produces, kurkutch , Poda and Baragara salt.

Poda and Kurkutch are used for water softening in thermal power plants.  Baragara salt is a bold crystal variety consumed extensively for edible purposes in U.P., tribal areas of M.P. and the Terrai region. This variety is extremely popular in Nepal also and approx 2 lac MY is consumed by them annually. When crushed into a fine powder it is an ideal substitute for vacuum salt and has found wide acceptability since it is 1/3rd its price.

I came across this blog http://saltpanworker.blogspot.in/, where I got to know the pain and agony and the (laggan)tax that these people pay to make salt..Education is a challenge and next to impossible as these people are (banjararas )  gypsy.. They come to this region to mine salt during October to June…Come july , Agarians have to move out as this place is a marsh land. With rains ,the sea level increases and this land is under sea for few months…They are landless people, they have no papers to proove that this land belongs to them for ages..and to top it all..Goverement has declared salt mining as illegal as a major part ofnearby little Rann of Kutch has been marked as Wild Ass sanctuary and is a protected site…When I write this I remember that song from hindi movie Rockstar..( o Eco friendly…nature ke rakshak..MEI BHI HUN NATURE )…MAN and BIOSPHERE both need to be preserved..Moving further everything the Agarians make is temporary…Their house..( thatched) or the traditional kuba house… Water they receive every 15 days …. vegetation is less and hence green veggies are minimum.. my lil one would have loved to be there I am sure..

The pain does not end here…I learnt that these people get only 18-28 paise per kilo of salt produced…If you want to feel their pain, Please go check the price and weight of salt packet that you might have stored in your pantry… The one that I use is ( 1kg for 18 rupees). Imagine..What they get for their hard-work…PEANUTS…

Their feet they say becomes so bruised and damaged working under scorching sun and smeared with brine water that their foot have to be buried separate ( as it wont get burnt)after their cremation!

dsc03697

During our visit to the salt pan…I found this gum boot lying at one corner …I felt a little sweet/relieved for these people of Salt land….