Kalo Dungar: Gujarat’s magnetic hill where vehicles go up the slope

Located at 462 m above sea level, Kalo Dungar is the highest point in Kutch where vehicles in neutral gear seem to defy gravity. It is also the only place offering a panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch – the world’s largest salt crust desert

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Kalo Dungar: Gujarat’s magnetic hill where vehicles go up the slope

Kalo Dungar: Gujarat’s magnetic hill where vehicles go up the slope

The highest point in Kutch, Gujarat, is Kalo Dungar, where vehicles seem to defy gravity and go up the slope instead of coming down. A car or bus or any other vehicle, if left out of gear (neutral), will roll up the slope, as has been witnessed by lakhs of travellers so far.

In the Kutchi language, the word 'Kalo' means black and 'dungar' is hill, translating into the Black Hill. Located at 462 m (1,516 ft) above sea level, Kalo Dungar is about 97 km from Bhuj and is the only place offering a panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch – the world’s largest salt crust desert with mesmerizing hues.

One can walk to the edge of the hill and look over at the sprawling desert landscape that changes colours as the day progresses and the sun sets behind the mountains. Visitors can shop at the local shops, which sell handmade and traditional handicrafts of Kutch. Tourists can also opt for a camel ride around the area.

Since Kalo Dungar is just about 40 km from the India-Pakistan border, there is an Army post at the top beyond which only military personnel are allowed. The area comes under the jurisdiction of the army.

Also Read: Mainpat: The Shimla of Chhatisgarh where water flows upwards

kalo dungar
A mesmerizing view of the Rann of Kutch from Kalo Dungar. Pic: Flickr

The history and science behind the uphill phenomenon 

In the afternoon of December 24, 2010, a resident of the Kalo or Kala Dungar hill area reported witnessing vehicles rolling downhill in neutral gear. Later in the evening, the collector of Kachchh (also Kutch) visited the site and confirmed the phenomenon. 

He noted that over a stretch of about 4 km, vehicles rolled uphill in neutral gear, reaching speeds of 70-80 km per hour and smoothly crossing over bumps along the way.

Then a team from the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), the Institute of Seismological Research, Gandhinagar; and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur studied the phenomenon. The team concluded that the vehicles pick up speed because the slope is steeper than it appears to the traveller.

Also Read: Lambasingi: South India’s only hill station where it snows

Sunset from Kalo Dungar. Pic: Gujarat Tourism

So Kalo Dungar's magnetic hill creates an optical illusion where the vehicle seems to defy gravity. In a gravity hill or magnetic hill, the layout of the surrounding land produces an optical illusion, making a slight downhill slope appear to be an uphill slope. 

The main reason behind the illusion is a completely or partly obstructed horizon. Kalo Dungar is the highest point in Kutch. From here, the entire northern horizon vanishes into the Great Rann of Kutch, and the desert and sky often become indistinguishable. 

Without a horizon, it becomes difficult for a person to judge the slope of a surface, as a reliable reference is missing. Even things typically presumed to stand more or less perpendicular to the ground, like trees, might be tilted, disrupting the visual alignment.

Dattatreya Temple

Kalo Dungar is also renowned for its 400-year-old Dattatreya temple. According to legend, when Dattatreya walked the earth, he halted at the Black Hills and encountered a group of starving jackals. Being a deity, he offered them his body to consume, and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. 

Dattatreya Temple at Kalo Dungar. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

As a result, for the last 400 years, the temple priest has been preparing a prasad of cooked rice, which is offered to the jackals after the evening aarti. In an arid land with limited resources, the beauty of nature persists along with the kindness of sharing food with others.

 Also Read: Udaigiri caves: A repository of ancient shrines and mythological tales

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