Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan) which is celebrated on 14th January this year heralds the change of season. The clear, blue skies and cool breeze are ideal to allow the kites to sail upwards. It is a festival of truth, virtue and religion. Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor and gaiety. The word ‘Makar’ means Capricorn and ‘Sankranti’ is transition. The term Uttarayana is derived from two different Sanskrit words “Uttara” (North) and “ayana” (movement), thus indicating a northward movement of the Sun on the celestial sphere.
The festival of Uttarayan marks the day when winter begins to turn into summer, according to the Indian calendar. The days become longer, the skies clearer and the breeze cooler. A feeling of anticipation, joy and jubilation grips all who celebrate the occasion of thanksgiving and merry-making. Being popular as the Kite festival in Gujarat, it is also famous as the beginning of the harvest season and is celebrated on the same day of the English Calender every year. As per Hindu Panchang the period of ‘Magh’ to “Aasad” month is known as Uttarayan.
Kite flying during Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan is an important part of the celebrations. One of the reasons is that as it is a time of thanksgiving and seek happiness. It is believed that kites first flew roughly 2800 years ago in China. The Kite Festival signify Gujarat’s ‘Cultural Strength’ and like the kites, Gujarat soars high to touch the skies to be the ‘best in the world.’ Though Kite festival is celebrated all over Gujarat, it is the most exciting in the capital city of Ahmedabad. The International Kite Festival (Uttarayan) in Ahmedabad is regarded as one of the biggest festivals celebrated. Months before the festival, homes in Gujarat begin to manufacture kites for the festival.
Today, manufacturing of kites is a serious business. It attracts big names of the corporate world as kites provide for the most cost-effective opportunity for branding. A visit to the Patang (Kite) Bazaar in the middle of the night proves beyond all doubt that the entire population of Ahmedabad city is obsessed with kites and they crowd the streets and buy the stocks while negotiating and enjoying through the night. The Patang Bazaar is open 24 hours a day during the Uttarayan week.
All sorts of colourful shiny toys act as accompaniments to the kites. On Uttarayan, in Ahmedabad the sky is full of colourful kites of all sizes and shapes. One finds an unequalled experience. Wonderful and appealing kites in various shapes and hues decorate the sky like a thousand fowls.
On this day, locals are hardly seen on the streets as everybody takes to the rooftop of their respective houses to fly kites. The dish called undhiyo is the specialty of the day which is prepared by using beans, roots and other local seasonal vegetables. The Kite Festival is also significant for the Vibrant Gujarat – Global Investor’s Summit held every year in the month of January.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)