Bounded on the north and east by marshy flats and on the south and west by the Gulf of Kutch and the Arabian Sea, the province of Kutch (also written Kuchchh or Kachchha) is a place apart. All but isolated from neighbouring Saurashtra and Sindh (Pakistan), the arid landscape is shot through with the colours of the heavily embroidered local dress. Kutchi legends can be traced in sculptural motifs, and its strong folk tradition is still represented in popular craft, clothing and jewellery designs. Few tourists make it here, but those who do are invariably enchanted. Launching from the central city of Bhuj – which has now recovered following devastation in the 2001 earthquake – you can explore the region’s craft villages, ancient fortresses, medieval ports and isolated monasteries. The treeless salt marshes to the north and east, the Great and Little Ranns of Kutch, breathtaking expanses of cracked white earth, can flood completely during a heavy monsoon, effectively turning much of the region into an inland sea from July to September. Home to the rare wild ass, the Ranns are also the only region in India where flamingos breed successfully. The southern district of Aiyar Patti supports crops of cotton, castor-oil plants, sunflowers, wheat and groundnuts. Northern Kutch, or Banni, by contrast, is semidesert with dry shifting sands and arid grasslands.

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