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 7,505.22 square kilometres (2,897.78 sq mi) in size and is reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world. This area has been inhabited by the Kutchi people.The name "Rann" comes from the Hindi word ran meaning "desert". The Hindi word is derived from Sanskrit/Vedic word iriṇa attested in the Rigveda and Mahābhārata.
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 30,000 square kilometres (10,000 sq mi) 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.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.
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, the Great Rann of Kutch is a breeding ground for flamingos and pelicans. It is the only place in India where flamingos come to breed and is home to 13 species of lark.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).
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 India's 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, was one scene of perennial border disputes between India and Pakistan that, in April 1965, contributed to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
Later the same year, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Harold Wilson persuaded the combatants to end hostilities and establish a tribunal to resolve the dispute. A verdict was reached in 1968 which saw Pakistan getting 10% of its claim of 9,100 square kilometres (3,500 sq mi). 90% was awarded to India, although India claimed 100% of the region. Tensions spurted again in 1999 during the Atlantique Incident.
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. Many adventure clubs and travel clubs organize expeditions.
The unique handicrafts of Kutch are world famous. 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.
At night, an unexplained strange dancing light phenomena known locally as Chir Batti (ghost lights) occurs in the Rann, the adjoining Banni grasslands, and the seasonal wetlands.
Many religions are found here like Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism & Islam.