Festivity soars high

Gujarat kite-flying

Festivity soars high

If there’s one season when using the idiom ‘go fly a kite’ means to actually go fly a kite, then it is in January, that too in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Colourful kites in various sizes and shapes dot the sky,  and on every rooftop, all that you can see is people flying kites joyously with their family and friends.

All this happens during the festival of Uttarayan, which we Kannadigas celebrate as Makara Sankranti. Yes, the harvest festival that alerts the farmers to the harvest season while we city-dwellers stuff ourselves with unlimited amounts of the yellu-bella mixture.

Coming back to the kite festival in Gujarat, the event has become so popular that kite-flying enthusiasts from all over India and abroad land in Ahmedabad to be a part of it. In fact, preparations for the festival begin in November itself, when professional kite-makers begin taking orders for customised kites. Some families prefer to make their own kites rather than buying them. And, a week prior to the festival, Patang Bazaar, a market in Ahmedabad that deals with only kites, works round the clock to meet the demands of people.

On the day of the festival, people wake up as early as 5 am to begin flying kites. There’ll be kite-flying competitions too. The best place to enjoy the view of kites is to park oneself either on the riverfront of Sabarmati or at the Ahmedabad Stadium. It’s fun to watch colourful kites soaring high in the sky even as kite-flyers, in true competitive spirit, try to cut the strings of kites of each other in an effort to win the competition. The string of the kite, known as manja, is coated with a mixture of glue and ground glass, and is hence very sharp — ideal to bring down the competitor’s kite!

If colour is the rule of the day, at night, all that we can see are bright white kites that stand out against the dark sky, and also tukkals with strings of brightly-lit lanterns. Uttarayan thus keeps kite lovers engaged from early morning till late in the night.

This kite festival, celebrated in Ahmedabad since 1989, has transcended all religious boundaries. No matter what your religion or belief is, if you are in Gujarat in January, all that you do is fly kites. Of late, the trend of film stars taking part in kite-flying has also caught on, adding a liberal dose of glamour to the world-renowned festival.

When so much has been happening on the kite-flying front, can food be far behind? Come to think of it, no Indian festival is complete without a free flow of festive food items. Along with colourful kites are tasty treats like undhiyu (a mixed vegetable including yam and beans), sesame chikkis, jalebi and khichdo. And, of course, Gujaratis strongly believe that four fruits — sherdi, bor, shingoda and jamfal — should be had on this day.

If you haven’t had your fill of live kites during Uttarayan, you could also visit the Kite Museum in Ahmedabad that has a wonderful collection of unique kites. So, the next time you want to plan a trip to Gujarat, do it in January, which affords you an excuse to say ‘go fly a kite’ without any regrets.

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