As India celebrates the auspicious festival of Makar Sankranti, Gujarat celebrates the occasion, which is called Uttarayan in Gujarati. Uttarayan, the kite flying festival, which falls on January 14, is one of the biggest festivals in Gujarat and is celebrated with lot of fervour and enthusiasm.
On the joyous occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hails from Gujarat, greeted the people, saying the atmosphere all around is full of happiness. In a message, he said the skies of Gujarat are full of colourful kites and there is an atmosphere of happiness all around.
The festival marks the days in the Hindu calendar when winter begins turning to summer, known as Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan. A festival associated with harvest, the occasion sees people up on their terraces, flying kites while enjoying delicacies. Kites of all shapes and sizes are flown, and the main competition is to battle nearby kite-flyers to cut their strings and bring down their kites.
One of the most popular dishes during this time is Undhiyu, eaten with puri and jalebi, laddoos or surati jamun. Since 1989, Gujarat Tourism has hosted International Kite Festival as a part of the official celebration of Uttarayan, wherein master kite flyers, craftsmen from different parts of the globe, gather and showcase their unique skills.
This time, the International Kite Festival Ahmedabad 2020, will take place on the Sabarmati Riverfront, which has the capacity to host over 500,000 people. Participants from countries like Japan, the UK, China, Malaysia, and France are expected to participate in the popular festival.
International Kite Festival
The International Kite Festival is regarded as one of the biggest festivals in Gujarat. Months before the festival, homes in Gujarat begin to manufacture kites for the festival. The festival marks the day when winter begins to turn into summer, according to the Indian calendar. It is the sign for farmers that the sun is back and that harvest season is approaching which is called Makara Sankranti. This day is considered to be one of the most important harvest day in India as it also marks the termination of the winter season and the beginning of a new harvest season.
Many cities in Gujarat organise kite competition between their citizens where the people compete with each other. In Gujarat and many other states, Uttarayan is such a huge celebration that it has become a public holiday for two days. During the festival, local food such as Undhiyu (a mixed vegetable dish, including yam and beans), sesame seed brittle and Jalebi is served to the crowds. Days before the festival, the market is filled with participants buying their supplies. In 2012, the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat mentioned that the International Kite Festival in Gujarat was attempting to enter the Guinness World Records book due to the participation of 42 countries in it that year.
The International Kite Festival takes place in Ahmedabad. The festival is celebrated in many cities of Gujarat, Telangana and Rajasthan. Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Hyderabad, Nadiad, Dakor are main centres for kite festival. However, the International Kite Event takes place in Ahmedabad. The best place to enjoy this festival is the Sabarmati Riverfront with a capacity of over 500,000 people or the Ahmedabad Police Stadium, where people converge to see the sky filled with thousands of kites.
During the festival week the markets are flooded with kite buyers and sellers. In the heart of Ahmedabad, there is one of the most famous Kite markets - Patang Bazaar, which during the festive week opens 24 hours a day with buyers and sellers negotiating and buying in bulk. Moreover, many families in Ahmadabad start making kites at home and setup small shops in their own homes.
There is also a Kite Museum, located at Sanskar Kendra in Paldi area of Ahmedabad. Established in 1985, it contains a collection of unique kites. Other parts of India also celebrate kite festival. People offer prayers, eat Sattu (made from new crop wheat) and new mangoes (baby mango also known as Tikola).
The symbolism of this festival is to show the awakening of the Gods from their deep sleep. It is said that India created the tradition of kite flying due to the kings and Royalties and later followed by Nawabs who found the sport entertaining and as a way to display their skills and power. It began as being a sport for kings, but over time, as the sport became popular, it began to reach the masses. Kite flying has been a regional event in Gujarat for several years. However the first International Festival was celebrated in 1989 when people from all across the globe participated and showcased their innovative kites.
The mention of this festival is in the Rigveda which dates more than 5,000 years. The day marks the beginning of the auspicious six-month period known as Uttarayana. Regardless of your background or beliefs, you are welcome to fly kites with everyone else in Gujarat. Most visitors arrive from around India, from Gujarat itself or another state. In major cities of Gujarat, kite flying starts as early as 5 am and goes until late night where approximately 8-10 million people participate in the whole festival.
However, many visitors are international who come from around the world, such as Japan, Italy, UK, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia, the USA, Malaysia, Singapore, France, China, and many other part of the world.
At the same time, the festival is the occasion for many public entities such as famous dancers, singers, actors or politicians to make an appearance and entertain the people. In 2004, for example, the Bollywood actress Juhi Chawla was part of the celebration and performed a Garba (dance) which is very popular in Gujarat.
Types of kites
Kites are usually made with materials such as plastic, leaves, wood, metal, nylon and other scrap materials but the ones for Uttarayan are made of light-weight paper and bamboo and are mostly rhombus shaped with central spine and a single bow. Dye and paint are also added to increase the glamour of the kite. The threads are covered with mixtures of glue and ground glass which when dried, rolled up and attached to the rear, also known as firkees, become sharp enough to cut skin. These types of threads are used on fighter kites known in India as patangs to cut down other kites during various kite fighting events. During the night illuminated kites filled with lights and candles known as tukals or tukkals are launched creating a spectacle in the dark sky.