View of the Great Rann of Kutch from atop Kalodungar. Image courtesy: Deepak Mall.
Imagine a place where you have mountain, desert and sea, all together! While its a geographical rarity to find something like this, Kutch district in Gujarat has them all. The mountain here is the Kalodungar, Gujarati for Black hills .
Kalodungar is the highest point in the Kutch district, coming at a height of 462 metres above mean sea level. Located at a distance of 97 kms from the district headquarters Bhuj, the hills are a must in the itinerary of every tourist coming here. The famous White Rann is located at a distance of 39 kms from there so that can also be included in the same day’s schedule. The hills are barren for the most part save for the Acacia growth that are a specialty of arid regions. There’s a 400 year-old temple of Hindu deity Lord Dattatrey atop the hill as well as an Army encampment.
The Visual spectacle: Unlike the name suggests, Kalodungar doesn’t look totally black. The soil is dark brown and since the landscape is mostly barren,it looks dark, almost black. The top of the Kalodungar offers panoramic views. To the south, you can see the Solaris ChemTech Plant in the foreground of a sand- covered landscape. To the North, you can see the blue Arabian sea water covering the gulf region. To the east are the hillocks surrounding the region which also provide a fascinating view of the sunrise every morning that makes the whole place seem surreal. Finally to the west, there’s the border with Pakistan.
India Bridge visible behind the hills.
While the border markings aren’t visible to the naked eye, one can easily see the India Bridge which is the last stop a civilian vehicle can go to. You can get down from your vehicle and walk on the bridge, though you can’t cross it. The bridge is constantly guarded by Army/ BSF jawans in 4 hour shifts throughout the day. The last border post is the army cantonment at Vighakot, 155 kms from Bhuj. To go there, you need to get a special pass from the DIG of the BSF office in Bhuj after a two-day process of verification of your documents. Beyond the bridge, the famous White Rann is visible too. The temperature at the top is slightly lower than that at other nearby regions.
Idol of Lord Dattatrey in the temple. Image courtesy: Hardik Tank.
The Legend: According to legends, Lord Dattatrey came to the hills and fed his body parts to the jackals. His body kept regenerating. Even today, as per tradition, the prasad is first fed to the jackals after the completion of the prayers at the deity’s temple atop the hill and then the temple provides free meal to just about anyone who has come there.
Statues of Jackals with boards detailing their significance.
Why visit?: Purely for the visual spectacle,if nothing else. It’s on the same route as the White Rann and India bridge so that’s an added reason too. Along the route comes the Khavda village at 72 kms from Bhuj. The Khoya/mawa/ milk solids from that village are famous all over Gujarat. A foodie’s delight.
How to get there: The best way to travel to Kalodungar is to have your own vehicle or getting a private cab from Bhuj, the nearest centre from there. Apart from that, a state transport GSRTC’s bus also makes daily trips to the hills. So it can be availed of as a cheaper option.
Best Time to Visit: Kutch’s oppressive heat ensures that the region remains hot for more than 9 months in a year. So November- February remains the best time to visit. That period also has the benefit of coinciding with the Kutch Carnival and the Rannotsav that’s organised annually at Dhordo village near the White Rann.
Sunset at the serene White Rann.
Fun Tidbits: Some people say that there’s a magnetic effect beneath the slopes of Kalodungar that cause vehicles to hurtle down at speeds of 70-80 kmph even in neutral gear. A research team from IIT, Kanpur and Institute of Seismic Research, Gandhinagar even conducted a study about this and found that there was nothing like that and that vehicles gained speed because of the steep slope.
So if you plan on having a tour of Kutch, don’t forget to add these magnificent hills to your itinerary.