When I had initially started planning my trip to Gujarat, particularly around the Rann of Kutch, I felt hopeless. Every place inside the region, 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, yet 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.
Now the only option was to stay in the nearby towns of Bhuj and Gandhidham (yet both the places had no place of interest for a tourist like me) and do the day trips to Great Rann of Kutch (GRK) and Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) from them, respectively. But it didn’t sound feasible, at least not for someone who was backpacking.
In order to explore the White Desert in GRK and the barren crack-land in LRK, I wanted to stay as closer to them as possible. It was particularly important for me to stay inside, or at least closer, to LRK, for I knew there was no public transport available inside its entire five thousand square kilometre area, and then a friend suggested me something I was totally looking for.
Sachendra Pal, an avid traveller and biker himself has done lengths and breaths across Gujarat. And during one of his explorations, he ended up at a place, quite offbeat in its nature and pocket friendly.
Located right in the middle of LRK (also known as The Century of Wild Ass), Vachhraj Dada temple offers a perfect place for cheap travellers to stay and explore the area, almost at no price.
Vachhraj Dada temple (locally pronounced as Vaachda-dada) holds a high religious significance among the local Rajput community of Gujarat. And it is inside this temple that anyone who visits, gets to eat and sleep for free – though any generous donations are always welcome.
Located at about 21 kilometres inside the barren land of LRK, from the nearest town of Zunzuwada, in the east, the place offers a total no-man’s-land experience. You’d be literally far off from any civilization, except for the temple, a few dozen people who help maintaining it, and a few thousand cows that live inside and around the temple.
If backpacking, you’ll get the public transport only upto the towns of Zinzuwada and Palsava, located on the 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 finally 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 severed in the fight by sword of an enemy but even after that his body fought against the people for hours and killed them all. A temple was built in his memory.
The 3500+ cows that live inside the premises of the temple today are moreover believed to belong from the same family of cows that Varchraj saved before his death.
What To See And Do Here
Despite being located in the middle of a no man’s land, there is enough to do around here. Except 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!
Other Things You Should to Know
Little Rann of Kutch (or the Sanctuary of Wild Ass) comes under the jurisdiction of Indian forestry, and 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 perks of travelling in the religious country India.
So if you’re motor biking 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 the temple visit, as the original intention behind their visit here, to get away with penalty.
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