Kalo Dungar – Living on the Edge

A story goes: ‘When Dattatreya, a monk and a lord of Yoga walked on earth, he stopped at a barren hill in Kutch where he found a band of starving jackals. Dattatreya was moved and offered his body to eat and as hungry jackals finished their meal, his body continually regenerated itself.’

The hill is Kalo Dungar or the Black Hill, the highest point in Kutch overlooking the Great Rann of Kutch and it’s beyond the Indo-Pak border.


For a tourist, the Kalo Dungar offers a spectacular view of rough arid hills and the white desert. Being at the time of sunset is an experience of lifetime. Anyone would simply fall in love with this landscape.


But behind the screen there is the story of hardship and struggle for survival. Samma Muslims, a pastoral nomadic tribe that traces its origin to Sindh across the rann inhabit villages spread around the mighty hill.


While talking to a Samma youth, I discovered that there is a severe hardship for day to day survival. Those are at Banni grassland are better off than the ones living around Kalo Dungar as the later have no access to Banni’s magical grass which support the best of buffalo breeds in the country. The Sammas of Kalo Dungar go on starving even for days when there are no tourists. They follow a rigid system with almost 0% literacy. Women are not allowed to walk and talk to men other than their husbands and relatives. Agriculture is rain fed and almost not there for years. Sometimes they harvest the local grass and make rotis out of these.

I was touched with no answers to comfort him. Then I could realize the significance of the story of starving jackals. The story might be a metaphor to depict the region’s hunger. And the starving Sammas look at government as Dattatreya, but I wonder is it the right approach.




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