Rann of Kutch: Bhungas, the traditional round houses of the Kutch region, which did not collapse during the devastating Gujarat earthquake, saving many lives, have now become a prime tourist attraction in the state.
On the fateful morning of the Republic Day in 2001, a close to 7.7-magnitude earthquake epicentered at Kutch`s Bhachau Taluka rocked that state, which practically flattened neighbouring Bhuj district`s historic landscape to rubble, but people who slept inside bhungas had a different tale to tell.
And, now these life-saving houses are a major hit among the visitors at the ongoing Rannotsav, set amidst the pristine white salt deserts of the Great Rann of Kutch bordering the now internationally famous Dhordo village here.
"These bhungas saved many lives here in the villages in Kutch during the 2001 quake. They turned out to be our life saviours and now they have caught attention of tourists and researchers in India and abroad for their unique design," Miyan Husen, Dhordo village sarpanch, told PTI here.
"But, nothing really happened to us here, who slept inside the bhungas, as the tremors passed by, which otherwise rattled the urban city of Bhuj and razed it down to the ground," Husen said.
And, ever since the white desert festival began here a few years ago, tourists are making a beeline for them (bhungas) to get a "unique" experience during their stay here.
Decorated aesthetically with Kutch`s ethnic "mud and mirror work", household items and ornamental designs, the cylindrical cross-section of the houses topped by a conical wooden roof literally draws the viewers inside.
"The roof is designed with a special wood and is carved meticulously by workers. And, all the artifacts you see here symbolises the traditional gifts that a bride receives while moving into a new house (bhunga) after marriage.
"And, now these bhungas have become internationally famous thanks to their life-saving and aesthetically pleasing designs," Husen said.
Husen`s late father had dreamt of the festival decades back in the Indian spirit of `Atithi Devo Bhava` or `Guest is Supreme` and his own house and bhungas have now been unofficially deemed as a museum of sorts.