To Mark the End of Winter, Everyone in this Indian Region Flies a Kite
In the northwestern state of Gujarat, India, the festival of Uttarayan 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 Makar Sankranti. This day is considered to be one of the most important harvest days in India. [source]
The festival takes place on 14 January of each year during the Makar Sankranti and continues until 15 January. Uttarayan is such a huge celebration that it has become a two-day public holiday. The festival is celebrated in many cities of Gujarat like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Nadiad. However, the International Kite Event takes place in Ahmedabad (Kite capital of Gujarat) which accommodates visitors from many international destinations.
The best place to enjoy this festival is the Sardar Patel Stadium (the cricket stadium with capacity of over 54,000 people) or the Ahmedabad Police Stadium, where people lay down to see the sky filled with thousands of kites. [source]
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. For this, people find their favored kite-makers who prepare strong resilient kite bodies with springy bamboo frames and kite-paper stretched to exactly the right tension. Lastly, the kites are attached to a spool (or firkin) of manja, special kite-string coated with a mixture of glue and glass to be as sharp as possible for cutting strings of rival kites.
Production of kites and kite supplies can be seen on the streets of Ahmedabad beginning in November, to get ready for Uttarayan, and nowhere more so than in Patang Bazaar, the special kite market that appears in the old city. For the week preceding the festival, it is open 24 hours a day for all kite lovers to stock up for the festivities. [source]
The symbolism of this festival is to show the awakening of the Gods from their deep sleep. Through India’s history, it is said that India created the tradition of kite flying due to the kings and royalties, but over time, as the sport became popular it began to reach the masses. [source]
Since 1989, the city of Ahmedabad has hosted the International Kite Festival as part of the official celebration of Uttarayan, bringing master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to demonstrate their unique creations and wow the crowds with highly unusual kites.
In past years, master kite makers from Malaysia have brought their wau-balang kites, llayang-llayanghave come from Indonesia, kite innovators from the USA have arrived with giant banner kites, and Japanese rokkaku fighting kites have shared the skies with Italian sculptural kites, Chinese flying dragons, and the latest high-tech modern wonders. [source]
The atmosphere of Uttarayan is wonderfully festive as whole families gather on rooftops. Special foods like laddoos, undhyu or surati jamun are prepared for eating over the course of the day, and friends and neighbours visit each other for group kite-flying fun. Often people look out for which of their friends has the optimum terrace for kite flying and many will congregate there. [source]
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. [source]
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