Kite Flying: A Festival of Colours and Camaraderie
If you have grown up in Gujarat, your fondest memories have to be of the wondrous festival of Uttarayan! Of course as kids, we don’t bother to know the significance of the day – we just love the kites! This Photo Essay by Meena Kadri on Flickr lucidly captures the essence of the festival, as celebrated with kites!
Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar and is celebrated in most parts of India in myriad ways. It signals the onset of the Harvest season. It marks the end of winter solstice with the sun moving into the Northern Hemisphere. In terms of the Hindu zodiac, the sun enters Capricorn or Makara. Hence, the day is called Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti in many States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and known by different names such as Lohri in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, and Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
In Gujarat, however, Uttarayan (uttar-north, yana-to go) is celebrated with great gusto as the Kite Flying Day. The gods who are believed to be in a state of slumber for six long months now awaken and the portals of heaven are thrown open! Colourful kites are supposedly sent out to the skies to greet the Gods.
Since the festival is celebrated in mid-winter, food items prepared for this festival contain ingredients that keep the body warm and re-moisturize the skin. Laddoos and chikkis made of til (sesame seeds) with jaggery are the primary food-items exchanged during the festival, reaffirming the ties of friendship – with the underlying thought of ‘eat the sweet and speak sweet words’.
Uttarayan is celebrated all over India, but the excitement is truly sky-high in Gujarat! Millions of colourful kites dot the skies at Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Nadiad and Vadodara. Surat is known for the strong string used to fly the kite, which is made by applying glass powder on the thread to provide it a cutting edge. The string is wound around on a charkha/firki.
The designs of the kites are remarkable – and each variant has a name in the local lingo. We had Phuddi, Tukkal, Adhha, Chakka – denoting the sizes in ascending order. The torn kites are mended using extra kite paper and sticking it with a paste made of stale rice called lahi. People stay up till late in the night on the eve of Uttarayan to get their kites flying-ready, making holes with agarbattis – the holes made taking precise measurements near the central spine for tying the threads (kinne).
People fly kites, try to make them sail higher and higher while others around try to cut the thread that holds them. A spirit of friendly neighbourhood camaraderie fills the atmosphere. Loudspeakers belt out latest Bollywood numbers and people are seen dancing and enjoying the day amid screams of kaay-po-chhe or kaati-hai coming from open grounds where many people gather to fly kites or individual home-terraces!
And to give it a TFOD flavour, here's an image from one of most active participating Members - artist Madhurie Pandit wishing all readers a Happy Makar Sankranti!