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How To Stay In Little Rann of Kutch For Free

When I was initially planning my trip to Gujarat, particularly around the Rann of Kutch region, I felt hopeless. Every place in the Rann of Kutch charged at least a couple of thousand Rupees for a night. And this did not include food. Some generous tourist homes, however, offered a complimentary breakfast but their price tag was way over my budget. “I’d never be able to travel to this part of my country, if I couldn’t find sponsors,” I remember wondering.

The only option for me was to stay in the nearby towns of Bhuj and Gandhidham (yet both the places had no place of interest for a traveller like me) and do day trips to Great Rann of Kutch (GRK) and Little Rann of Kutch (LRK). But it didn’t sound feasible. At least not for someone who was backpacking and had to wait long hours hitchhiking thanks to an overwhelmingly poor public transportation system in the entire region of Kutch.

Read: Kutch Travel Guide

In order to explore the White Desert in the Great Rann of Kutch and the barren crack-land in The Little Rann of Kutch, I had to stay as close to them as possible. It was particularly important for me to stay inside, or at least closer, to The Little Rann of Kutch, for I knew there was no public transport available inside its entire five thousand square kilometre area – and then a friend suggested to me exactly what I was totally looking for.

Those wanting to travel Little Rann of Kutch are moreover required to stay outside the forest area in one of the safari camps located outside, as the Little Rann of Kutch comes under The forest reserve (Little Rann of Kutch, also known as the Sanctuary of Wild Ass is the last refuge of the Indian Wild Ass ‘Khur’ and hence a protected piece of land). So anyone wanting to visit the Little Rann of Kutch is required to get a permission from the forest department and is allowed a visit during daytime and under the permitted time, but with a twist. Located right in the middle of the Little Rann of Kutch lies the popular Vachhraj Dada Temple, a local deity for the Rajput community living around the Little Rann of Kutch. Anyone visiting the temple is considered a pilgrim and is therefore exempted to obtain a permit from the forest department.

Located right in the middle of the Little Rann of Kutch, Vachhraj Dada temple offers a perfect place for budget travellers to stay and explore the area, all for free.

Vachhraj Dada temple (locally pronounced as Vaachda-dada) holds a high religious significance among the local Rajput community of Gujarat. And anyone visiting the temple is considered a pilgrim and is offered free food and a bed.

Located at about 21 kilometres inside the the Little Rann of Kutch) from the nearest town of Zunzuwada, towards the east, the place moreover offers a total no-man’s-land experience. You would be far off from any civilization, except for the people in the temple, and a few hundred cows that live inside it.

If backpacking, you’ll get the public transport only up to the towns of Zinzuwada and Palsava, located on either side of the Wild Ass Sanctuary. From there, you’re required to hitchhike in order to reach Vachhraj Dada temple. Hitchhiking should be no problem, due to the frequency of private/commercial vehicles that keep visiting the temple. 

The Story Of Vachhraj Dada

Vachhraj Dada temple is dedicated to a folk deity and an eminent warrior-hero of the region named ‘Vachhraj’. The story has it that Vachhraj belonged to the royal family of a Rajput ruler, some 900 years ago. On the day he was getting married, he heard the news that some dacoits were looting and taking the cows of a village inside the Mehsana district of today, to butcher them. He left the marriage ceremony incomplete to fight the plunderers, in which he attained martyrdom. According to the legend, it is believed that Vachhraj’s head was cut in the fight by the sword of an enemy but even after that his body kept fighting against the people for hours and killed them all. A temple was built in his memory.

The 3500+ cows living inside the premises of the temple today are moreover believed to be belonging from the same family of cows that Varchraj saved fighting.

What To See And Do In Little Rann of Kutch

Despite being located in the middle of a no man’s land, there is enough to do around here. Expect to see some of the most amazing sunsets and sunrises along the horizon, you’ve seen in your life.

Other than the sunsets and the barren crack-land, stretching along a few dozen kilometres in any direction, you can visit the many salt farmers working in the little Rann’s many salt farms.

A few kilometres from the temple also takes you to an artificial river stream, running around the area, where you can spot migratory water birds like cranes, pelicans and flamingos. Hundreds of them. Night walks on the other hand, around the area, can take you across an Indian wolf or a desert fox, if you’re lucky. I sure wasn’t!

Getting To Varchraj Dada Temple

If you’re visiting by public transport the best way to get to VachRaj dada temple is from Ahmedabad. Take a train from Ahmedabad to Viramgram (3 hours) and then a bus from Viamgram to Zinzuwada (2 hours). From Zinzuwada, there’s no way to get to VachRaj dada but by hitchhiking. Since tourists keep visiting the temple, and is only about 15 km from Zinzuwada, finding a lift should not be a problem. It’s advised not to walk on your own in LRK because of the risk of losing your way.

From Bhuj, you can take a train or a bus to Gandhidham and then a bus to Palsava. Now, as I said before, the best way to get to the temple is from Ahmedabad, because the distance from Palsava (the nearest point to the temple, from where no public transport is available, is at least three times the distance from Zinzuwada). From Palsava, you will have to hitchhike again.

PS: Since VachRaj dada is basically a Byre (or a cowshed) and there’s no grass available inside the entire region of LRK, trucks full of dried hay leave from either side of LRK every 2 hours, and can be used for hitchhiking.

Useful Tips

As mentioned above, The Little Rann of Kutch (or the Sanctuary of Wild Ass) comes under the jurisdiction of Indian forestry, therefore you’re required to obtain a permit to access it unless of course, you’re visiting the Vachhraj Dada temple. Consider it as one of the perks of travelling in the religious country India.

So if you’re motorbiking or are travelling in a group or solo, and someone representing the forest departments stops you for questioning, make sure you’ve properly rehearsed the answer they’re expecting to hear.

I was even told by locals, inside the temple, that a few regular tourists even do camping inside the Little Rann, and around the temple premises. Upon being questioned, they give the customary excuse of visiting the temple, as the original intention behind their visiting Little Rann of Kutch. Doing so, they get away with the penalty. Crazy, but true!

Continue planning your trip to Gujarat by reading: Gujarat Travel Guide | Rogan Art In Nirona Village |  Rann Utsav In Gujarat

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Shortly after my first real nine-to-five job, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in my backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to stay in one place. I believe that with a little courage and inspiration, everyone has the power to follow their dreams. Just as I've followed mine!

15 Comments

  1. Hello Dev! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I was planning a trip to Kuch and you made it so much easier for me.

  2. This might be a bit of a silly question it I’ve been trying to find all the all towns etc that you mention in your amazing posts on Little Rann of Kutch and I can’t find them on Google Maps or Maps.Me! Heading there in the next week to do some hitchhiking which I’m really looking forward to!

    • yes Evan, it’s not on any nativagtion apps. Use Google maps to get to the town of Zunzuwada. In Zunzuwada, just ask anyone which way for the temple, you will find a gate at the exit of Zunzuwada, there’s only one road (well, technically there’s no road) that passes through that gate and takes you to the temple. So just stand underneath that gate and stop any vehicle going towards that direction. I’m sure you wont need the maps inside, that’s the charm of it… of getting lost 😉

  3. Hi Dev,
    I am a Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger from Bangalore, and I do a little bit of travel posts too,
    I am planning a trip to Rann during the Valentines Day 2018. I was very skeptical about taking up any packages or even book any tent. All of your 3 blogposts are really informative.

    More over I have hardly 3 days of time, And
    1. wanted some expert advice from you on whether its safe to stay in the Vachhraj Dada temple/Dattatreya temple kalo dungar.
    2.How time consuming is it to get any transport from there to the main Rann area for all the festivities.

    It would be of great help if you could respond.
    Regards
    Aishwarya Iyengar

  4. Very interesting post and enthralling pictures. I have visited kutch last year 2016. There i had seen Bhuj, Mandvi, Anjar, Gandhidham however could not got a chance to see the Great Rann of Kutch. Khavda is additionally eminent for its Sweets.

  5. Hi Dev,
    Interesting stuff and informative guide. Well, we are a group of friends who love cycling to explore the places. We would love to ride in little rann of Kutch. Can you please guide, will it be possible to cycling from Zinzuwada to Palasava passing through the rann? Is it cyclable trek?

    • Totally. Though you might want to find a solution for punctured-tyres, as some places have tiny spikes coming out of the cracks, but as far as riding is concerned, it’s totally doable. Zinzuwada to Palasva is 20(something) + 30(something) kms. So if you like, you can also crash at VacchRaj temple in between, and even park your bikes inside the temple and they’d be safe.

  6. Hi Dev, great stuff! We’re traveling in Gujarat now, so this super helpful. Especially since we travel on a pretty low budget. Do you think it’s possible to stay at the temple as a foreign tourist?

    • A Caucasian showing up at the temple might definitely be something new, but trust me if you show up there, and look hopeless, there’s no chance that the temple committee won’t not let you in. Still, to give you some assurance, there are 5-6 provisional stalls, right outside the temple premises, run by local villagers, I’m sure they’ll arrange something. So rest assured, finding a place to sleep should be no problem! Go for it!

  7. Very interesting information and will be definitely helpful to others. I want to add more more place to stay at very reasonable cost. Dattatreya temple kalo dungar.

    They offered decent accommodation at very reasonable cost and serve food as well. During my last visit I stayed there and really enjoyed clicking nature early in the morning. To avoid crowd at Dhordo, I stayed overnight at this location and went to white rann during early morning.

    Let me know if you need any contact information about this place.

    • Hey Jignesh. Thanks for the information. This will be of much help to the readers. Can you please also mention how much they cost, if they have a fixed price chart, or are we required to do some donation (at will), just like in other temples? And anyone who shows up at the temple gets to stay there? If booking can be a problem, can you please share the person in charge’s number, so that those who wish to travel and stay there can arrange. Thanks!

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