Top choice in Kachchh (Kutch)

In the hills about 60km northwest of Bhuj is the eerie 12th-century monastery at Than. This is a laid-back place, with architecture ranging from crumbling mud brick to Portuguese-style blue stucco and whitewashed bell towers. It attracts a few sadhus (ascetics) and the main shrine contains a scared fire said to have been burning since the monastery was founded.

The monastery was established by the holy man Dhoramnath. As penance for a curse he had made, he stood on his head on top of Dhinodhar hill for 12 years. The gods pleaded with him to stop, and he agreed, provided that the first place he looked at became barren – hence the Great Rann. He then established the monastic order of Kanphata (Split Ears, because of large piercings monks made through the concha of their ears), and this is that monastery.

Today, Dhoramnath's penance continues during the Navratri festival, when the monastery's head monk spends a week sitting utterly still day and night and taking no food or water throughout the period.

There’s one bus daily to Than from Bhuj (₹55, two hours) at 5pm, returning early the next morning. The monastery has very basic guest rooms (not recommended for female travellers) with mattresses on the floor and simple food (pay by donation).

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