Kutch is India’s largest island, yet most of the year it’s connected to the mainland on its northern and eastern sides by wide salt pans called ranns—a term derived from the Sanskrit word for “waste.” During monsoon season, these ranns are often flooded, waist deep in places. Now a district of the Indian state of Gujarat, Kutch takes its name from the local word for tortoise, katchhua, and it does resemble a tortoise floating upside down in the Arabian Sea. That sea links Kutch more closely to East African and Arabian ports than to India’s hinterlands. Though Kutch has been increasingly integrated into Gujarat for the past 60 years, it is still something of a place apart, not least for the unique geology that makes it an active earthquake zone in the ongoing slow-motion smash-up of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. For Kutch, this distinctiveness is most clearly expressed in the differently embroidered and dyed dress styles of its ethnic groups—Rabaris, Ahirs, Jats and others—each as unique as the gaudy plumage of different birds of paradise.