Kite Festivals, also known as ‘Uttarayan’ is one of the initial festivals taking place towards the start of the year and in the state of Gujarat, grandiose celebrations of the festival pull huge crowds from far and wide. The Uttarayan festival indicates that the winters have come to an end and the summer season is about to begin. In Gujarat this festival is celebrated with immense pomp on the 14th of January; i.e. the day of ‘Makar Sankranti’; another notable Indian festival celebrated countrywide. In Gujarat, you can easily take note of the ecstatic festive spirit not only on the Uttarayan day but even a couple of days preceding the festival.
Common practices/rituals related to Kite Festival
- Kite flying is the most prominent ritual of Uttarayan festival. All the natives of Gujarat take a break from their daily mundane routines and make their way to the terrace to participate in kite flying.
- On this day the kites soar aloft, gliding their way across with the help of the brisk breeze that blows during that part of the year. On this day the skyline above the various cities of Gujarat is dotted with kites of various shapes, sizes, colors and the battle of kites is one very exciting feature of the Uttarayan kite festival. Kite flyers compete with each other with the sole goal of bringing down the kite of their contenders. It is a sight to behold indeed when you see passionate kite flyers engrossed in flying their kites high up and applying all sorts of tricks to severe the strings attached to their rival kites.
- Preparations for the kite flying competitions start many days ahead of the Uttarayan day and people who take part in the contest will apply a mix of glass dust and glue referred to as ‘manja’ to their kite strings. With that the strings become sharp and crisp and can easily cut through the kite strings of rival kites.
- Kite sellers put up their stalls everywhere from the month of November itself.
- While indulging in the sport they often yell out ‘Kaipoche’ and the ambience around echoes to the shouts and sounds.
- Kite flying is preceded by pooja, Aarti.
- Towards the evening, beautiful Chinese lanterns are left towards the sky and are seen floating against the backdrop of the dark.
- Also, people prepare some mouthwatering traditional delicacies at home such as Surati Jamun, Undhiyu, til laddoos etc.
- On the occasion of the Kite Festival or Uttarayan, social gatherings take place and natives of Gujarat spend joyful moments in company of each other.
Uttarayan made official through International Kite Festival
As an official celebration for the Uttarayan festival, the International Kite festival is organized in the Ahmadabad city each year and this practice commenced ever since the year 1989. On the occasion of the festival, master kite flyers and master kite craftsmen gather and showcase their unique skills. The event has taken the stature of a big global meet of kite flyers, enthusiastic audiences and kite craftsmen coming to the place from different corners of the country and globe.
History of Kite Festival
As per historical records, kites were introduced to the Indian subcontinent either through Muslim traders from Persia or through Buddhist pilgrims from China. Either way, the history of kites is pretty long in the state of Gujarat. A 1000 year old composition by Santnambe; a composer makes a mention of kites and numerous classic paintings emerging from ancient Gujarat portray images of kite flyers. Gujarat, being the country’s westernmost state shows a seamless intermingling of Hindu and Muslim traditions. Several Muslim practices have seeped into the prevailing Hindu culture of Gujarat and have become one with the Hindu culture. Kite flying could be one such practice. Today it is very much a Hindu ritual belonging to the Hindu festival of Uttarayan. However, still it is not known with certainty when exactly this kite flying practice had begun in Gujarat.
Best tips to enjoy the Uttarayan to your heart’s fill
If you wish to participate in Gujarat’s kite festival and enjoy it thoroughly, here are some great tips for you.
- -Your kite buying should be backed with adequate research.
- -Get your manja done much ahead of the last moment.
- -Play music during kite flying but don’t overdo it; or else, it’ll distract you.