Kutch – Land Of Timeless Treasure

kutchtortoise
“Shiyade Sorath bhalo
Unade Gujarat
Chaumase Vagad bhalo
Mujho Kutchhdo Baare Maas”

History

Kutch literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry. A large part of this district in Gujarat is known as the Rann of Kutch, which is a shallow wetland that submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The word Kutch is also used for a tortoise in Sanskrit. Legendary heroism and romance lend enchantment to Kutch, a land of great antiquity forming the northwestern part of Gujarat. The early Stone Age man lived in this area, which finds mention in the Mahabharata and the Puranas. The adventurous people of this land, who once built ships and crossed the oceans, have a rich heritage of handicrafts. The district is also famous for the ecologically important Banni grassland with their seasonal marshy wetlands, which form the outer belt of the Rann of Kutch. Along the northern edge of the Rann of Kutch lies the border with Pakistan. The coast and the marshlands attract many migratory and domestic birds, including giant flocks of flamingos.

Kutch has had four thousand years of inhabitation to build up a long and complex history. In 1819, an earthquake changed the topography and the lndus began to flow further westward, leaving the Rann (now separated into the Great Rann and Little Rann) as a vast desert of saline flats. During heavy rains, the Rann, especially Khadir – the low lying plain next to the river still flood, leaving islands known as beyts.

Some historians and archaeologists posit that the Harappans (also known as the Indus Valley Civilization) crossed the region by land, from the Indus River to the Sabarmati. Others doubt this, saying that the Rann would have been permanently underwater at that time and crossing the deserts from Sindh would have to be done further north. Either way, Harappan artifacts have been found in Khadir, making it one of the longest inhabited regions of India.

Remains of Indus Valley Civilization at Dholavira

Dholavira represents the most significant remains of Indus Valley Civilization today. The wall of citadel at Dholavira is 18m thick. Buildings in Dholavira were made of sun-dried mud bricks and stone. Some of them are in good condition even today. The refinement of buildings that the Dholavira possessed and materials used, reveals a deep knowledge of civil engineering. Ornaments made from lapis lazuli, agate, carnelian, shells, silver and gold as well as utensils and toys made from clay also reveal a refined artistic and technological sense. The water wells and street remains of the town, speak of the technological sophistication of the Indus Valley people. Dholavira is the first site of the Indus Valley to have yielded a sign board with large Indus letters. Unfortunately, the script of lndus Valley Civilization remains to be deciphered, but this civilization continues to fascinate and intrigue even after 5000 years. Bhuj is almost certainly mentioned in the writings of two millennia ago; the writer Strabo (66 BC-24 AD)writes of Tejarashtra, whose principal city Tej is the modern day Bhuj in all likelihood.

From the 16th to 18th centuries, Kutch was ruled by the Samma Rajputs from Sindh, what is considered to be Sindh’s Golden Age. As the power centre in Sindh declined, there was a series of complicated successions and intra-familial murders, leading eventually to the installment of Lakho Jadeja, descendent from the Samma Rajputs, who ruled directly from Kutch, not from Sindh. In 1549, Khengarji I moved the capital from Anjar to Bhuj, given its strategic location in the center of kutch. The name of the city was derived from Bhujiyo Dungar, the 160m hill that overlooks the city and said to be the residence of the Great Serpent Bhujang, to whom a temple stands at the top of the hill. In the late 16th century,the area came under Mughal dominance, though the Rajput kings still held local administrative powers. King Bharml I gained favour with the Mughal Emperor by sending many extravagant gifts, and when the Kutchi rulers granted free passage and hospitality to pilgrims bound for Mecca, the Mughals exempted them from paying tribute to the Emperor, and even allowed them to mint kori-a local currency.

In 1815, the British arrived and seized Bhujiyo Dungar hill. The State became a British protectorate, as the king acknowledged British sovereignty in exchange for local autonomy. Like the Mughals before them, the British began administrative authority over Kutch, but not direct rule. More concerned with securing the Sindh border than collecting resources, there was a little British intrusion into local life. In fact, they managed to make peace between the Kutchi kingdom and its neighbors, leading to general prosperity in the area. Building projects abounded in the 19th century, with Pragmaiji II on the throne. He had the Prag Mahal Palace built, as well as the Ranjit Vilas Palace, the Vijay Vilas Palace in Mandvi, and many hospitals, schools, irrigation projects and roads.

Upon independence, Kutch became a State in India, while neighbouring Sindh joined Pakistan. This costed Kutch the nearby major port of Karachi and led to the development of Kandla as an important port for the region. Territorial disputes with Pakistan over parts of Kutch have led to fighting, once just before the Second Kashmir War and once around the time of the Kargil Conflict. Today, no border problems exist, and because the actual frontier lies within The Great Rann, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to cross the vast expanse of very harsh desert, but the Indian Army keeps a close watch a flyway.

Source: Tourism Corporation Of Gujarat Limited, (2017), Rann Utsav – Kutch Nahi Dekha To Kutchh Nahi
Dekha.