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Great Rann of Kutch

Rann of Kutch on the top left in turquoise colour. The Gulf of Kutch is further down below the Kutch region. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
Rann of Kutch on the top left in turquoise colour. The Gulf of Kutch is further down below the Kutch region. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
Map of Gujarat showing the Greater Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch
Map of Gujarat showing the Greater Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch

The Great Rann of Kutch, is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India and the Sindh province of Pakistan. It is about in size and is reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world. [1] This area has been inhabited by the Kutchi people.[2]

The name "Rann" comes from the Hindi word ran () meaning "desert". The Hindi word is derived from Sanskrit/Vedic word ( ) attested in the Rigveda and Mah bh rata.


Location and description

The Great Rann of Kutch, along with the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands on its southern edge, is situated in the district of Kutch and comprises some between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of the Indus River in southern Pakistan. The marsh can be accessed from the village of Kharaghoda in Surendranagar District.[3]

In India's summer monsoon, the flat desert of salty clay and mudflats, which average 15 meters above sea level, fill with standing waters. The greatest extent between the Gulf of Kutch on the west and the Gulf of Cambay on the east get united during the monsoon.

The area was a vast shallow of the Arabian Sea until continuing geological uplift closed off the connection with the sea, creating a vast lake that was still navigable during the time of Alexander the Great. The Ghaggar River, which presently empties into the desert of northern Rajasthan, formerly emptied into the Rann of Kutch, but the lower reaches of the river dried up as its upstream tributaries were captured by the Indus and Ganges thousands of years ago. Traces of the delta and its distributary channels on the northern boundary of the Rann of Kutch were documented by the Geological Survey of India in 2000.

The Luni River, which originates in Rajasthan, drains into the desert in the northeast corner of the Rann. Other rivers feeding into the marsh include the Rupen from the east and the West Banas River from the northeast.

There are sandy islets of thorny scrub, forming a wildlife sanctuary and a breeding ground for some of the largest flocks of greater and lesser flamingos. Wildlife, including the Indian wild ass, shelter on islands of higher ground, called bets, during the flooding.


This is one of the hottest areas of India - with summer temperatures averaging and peaking at . Winter temperatures reduce dramatically and can go below . [4]

Flora and Fauna

The plant life of the marsh consists of grasses such as apluda and cenchrus species along with dry thorny shrubs.

In winter, Great Rann of Kutch is a breeding ground for flamingos and pelicans.[5] It is the only place in India where flamingos come to breed and is home to 13 species of lark. [6] The Little Rann of Kutch is famous for the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, home of the world's last population of Indian wild ass (equus hemionus khur or khar). Other mammals of the area include the Indian wolf (canis indica), desert fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla), golden jackal (canis aureus), chinkara (gazella bennettii), nilgai (boselaphus tragocamelus), and the near threatened blackbuck (antilope cervicapra).

The marshes are also a resting site for migratory birds, and are home to over 200 species of bird including the threatened Lesser Florican (eupodotis indica) and houbara bustard (chlamydotis undulata).

Threats and preservation

Although most of the marsh is in protected areas, the habitats are vulnerable to cattle grazing, firewood collection and salt extraction operations, all of which may involve transportation that disturbs wildlife. There are several wildlife sanctuaries and protected reserves on the Indian side in the Rann of Kutch region. From the city of Bhuj, various ecologically rich and wildlife conservation areas of the Kutch/Kachchh district can be visited such as Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Banni Grasslands Reserve and Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve.

Indo-Pakistan international border

In India the northern boundary of the Greater Rann of Kutch forms the International Border between India and Pakistan, it is heavily patrolled by Border Security Force (BSF) and Indian Army conducts exercises here to acclimatize its troops to this harsh terrain.

This inhospitable salty lowland, rich in natural gas is part of India and Pakistan's ongoing border dispute concerning Kori Creek. In April 1965, a dispute there contributed to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, when fighting broke out between India and Pakistan. Later the same year, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Harold Wilson successfully persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute. A verdict was reached in 1968 which saw Pakistan getting 10% of its claim of . The majority of the area thus remained with India. Tensions spurted again in 1999 during the Atlantique Incident.[7]

Chir Batti

At night, an unexplained strange dancing light phenomena known locally as Chir Batti (ghost lights) occurs in the Rann,[8] the adjoining Banni grasslands, and the seasonal wetlands.[9]

Popular Culture

J. P. Dutta's Bollywood film Refugee is shot on location in the Great Rann of Kutch amongst other locations in the Kutch district. This film is said to have been inspired by the famous story by Keki N. Daruwalla based around the Great Rann of Kutch titled "Love Across the Salt Desert"[10], included as one of the short stories in the School Standard XII syllabus English text book of NCERT in India.[11] The film crew traveled from Mumbai and was based in the city of Bhuj and most of the film shooting took place in the Great Rann of Kutch (also on BSF-controlled "snow white" Rann interior), villages and Border Security Force (BSF) Posts in Banni grasslands and the Rann, Tera fort village, Lakhpat fort village, Khera fort village, a village in southern Kutch, some ancient temples of Kutch and with parts and a song filmed on set in Mumbai's Kamalistan Studio.

Amitabh Bachchan in his advertisements for Gujarat Tourism titled Khushboo Gujarat Ki has also extensively shot in the Rann of kutch.[12]

Several scenes in Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize winning novel Midnight's Children take place in the Rann of Kutch, including a scene where the protagonist faints from heat stroke in the Rann's famously brutal climate.


The Government of Gujarat hosts an annual 3 day festival called the Rann Utsav (festival of the Rann), where tourists can see the various sights of the Rann as well as get a taste of the local culture, cuisine and hospitality. Specially built local houses are also used to house tourists to give them a taste of them.[13] Many adventure clubs and travel clubs organize expeditions.


The unique handicrafts of Kutch are world famous.[14] A lot of women and young girls make their living by selling different types of embroidered cloths. The embroidery is of various styles such as Rabari, Ahir, Sindhi, Banni, Mutwa, Ari and Soof - and some styles include mirror or bead inlay.

See also

  • Rann of Kutch
  • Little Rann of Kutch
  • Kutch
  • Kori Creek
  • Atlantique Incident
  • Banni grasslands
  • Chhir Batti (Ghost lights) from Banni grasslands, its seasonal wetlands and the adjoining Rann of Kutch
  • Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve adjacent to Banni Grasslands
  • Salt marsh
  • Salt flat
  • Salt pans


Encyclop dia Britannica

  • The Great Run of Kutch; Dec 10, 2006; The Indian Express Newspaper
  • Rann of Kutch seasonal salt marsh (IM0901); Ecoregion Profile, Flooded Grasslands and Savannas; World Wildlife Fund Report; This text was originally published in the book Terrestrial ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: a conservation assessment from Island Press. This assessment offers an in-depth analysis of the biodiversity and conservation status of the Indo-Pacific's ecoregions. Also see: Rann of Kutch seasonal salt marsh (IM0901); Flooded Grasslands and Savannas; WildWorld; All text by World Wildlife Fund 2001; National Geographic Society

External links

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