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Uttarayan Festival Essays

An event is best experienced at the heart of all the action. A perfect example of this was Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan – the kite flying festival we attended in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. An experience we will cherish forever.

The entire city – with friends, families and relatives – was gathered on rooftops. Everyone was engaged in a kite flying frenzy.

It was exciting being in midst of all these festivities, seeing the kites soar, blanketing the crisp winter sky in colourful specs.

The significance of Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan)

Unlike other Hindu festivals which follow the lunar motion, Makar Sankranti follows the movement of the sun. It marks the beginning of the sun’s transition into the zodiac of Capricorn (Makar=Capricorn, Sankranti= transition). This makes it the only festival to fall on a fixed date every year – January 14th.

It is a festive day all over India. Each region celebrates its own local form of this festival. In the western parts of India it is called the “Makar Sankranti”.

This is the day winter officially ends and spring begins – a transition symbolic of discarding the previous season’s bad and the beginning of a fresh new season.

Uttarayan is synonymous with kite flying.

For days preceding the festival of Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan), the markets are filled with colourful kites. They are all waiting to be bought by the heaps.

The night before the main Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan) day, markets are choc-a-bloc with people. They are all selecting their stash for kite flying the next day.

Mobile kite vendors like this boy have to carry the kites on their heads, for the fear of them being trampled otherwise. There isn’t any other safe way to roam around with them.

All sorts of colourful shiny toys act as accompaniments to the kites! The atmosphere is not short of a carnival. Festivities are in the air!

Of course, the Bollywood  stars are ubiquitous! People will literally take them soaring to the skies!

And yes, any festival is all about love! We all need big love!

The kite flying is by no means a friendly pass time that people indulge in for Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan). Some closely fought contests take place mid air. Save your kite and bring the other person’s down is the name of the game.

Which is why kites have to be bought in large numbers.

Making of the manjha

Manjha is the thread tied to the kites. It is made by specific communities. Each colour stands for a specific community. It is not just a regular thread. Manjha is coated with powdered glass, making it extremely sharp.

Kite fliers are aware of this. The expert ones always take proper precautions. Their fingers are heavily bandaged before the start of kite flying.

Food – important to any Indian festival.

In Gujarat, a special winter vegetable called undhiyo is the specialty of the day. It’s a preparation of several beans, roots and other local seasonal vegetables.

Then there are the twisted and crooked orange spirals called jalebee.Their explosive sweetness is a perfect accompaniment to the rustic goodness of the undhiyo.

We had the privilege of visiting a hundred year old jalebee joint. Even at the rush hour, they let us peek into their kitchens and click a few photos.

The smooth flowing batter is first fried in the shape of these spirals. The fiery golden discs are then instantly dunked in sugar syrup. What results is a melt-in-your mouth sweet heaven.

Jalebees are not for the mild hearted, mind you! They are desserts meant for the hard core sugar lover!

Kite flying, a team sport!

After a hearty breakfast, every body gets on the rooftops. Kite flying is a family event. Entire families gather together on the terraces, roofs or any other part of their house exposed to the sky.

Those not busy flying are busy in preparing the kites. Getting the tension on its skeleton right, is the key to the strength of the kite. The positioning of the holes to insert the manjha will decide the flight angle and it’s trajectory.

All of these technicalities, make kite flying a team event.

An expert prepares the kites. Another one rolls out the manjha for the flier. The co ordination between the flier and the one rolling out the manjha is also very important.

Rolling-out and pulling-in of the manjha has to go in sync with the kind of contest your kite has got into, in the skies.

The contests among the kites

The contests are very intensely fought. It requires a lot of concentration to not lose sight of your kite. Controlling the flight and motion of the kite so high up, is no easy task.

The kite that flies the tallest is the star of the day!

Late in the evening, as the sun sets, the night festivities begin. People release paper lamps from their terraces. The sky is now filled with floating lights. Our necks ached as we tried to take in the spectacle around. It was a surreal moment.

The Khadia area in old Ahmedabad can easily be labelled the capital of Makar Sankranti kite flying. It was from the tallest terrace in this Khadia area that we saw the entire city engaged in the same sport, the sky covered in tiny colourful specs of kites.

In its complex maze of tiny lanes was where we experienced the magic!

Top tips for experiencing the festival of Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan):

  • Get to Gujarat – that’s the key. Even though the festival is celebrated in most parts of India, it’s magnitude in Gujarat is like no other place.
  • Ahmedabad is the city we would recommend you head into. It is well connected by trains, buses and flights with other parts of India. Getting into Ahmedabad and around is easy.
  • Book a place for yourself in advance, in the old parts of Ahmedabad (east of the Sabarmati river), preferably the area called Khadia. This is where the rest of the city gathers to fly their kites.
  • Khadia and surroundings is full of tiny lanes called pol which house many heritage bungalows. The people will be eager to show off their heritage. Experience this old world charm and soak in their hospitality along with celebrating Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan). The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation also offers heritage walks in the pols of Ahmedabad. Highly recommended.
  • We suggest a short holiday (3-4 days) to Ahmedabad, when you are there to celebrate Makar Sankranti. The International Kite Flying event coincides with Makar Sankranti (Uttarayan). Take time to visit this on the banks of Sabarmati, to see the huge kites the kite fliers from all across the globe bring along.
  • Ahmedabad is a city that offers something to the visitor of every kind. Food, street shopping, culture, architecture – it has it all.
  • Need help planning your trip?

    Tell us your requirement.

Like this story? Have any questions about the kite festival in India? Let us know in the Comments section below.

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Introduction: Makar Sankranti, also known as the Kite festival, is a popular Hindu festival. It is known as Maghi in Punjab. In Uttar Pradesh, the festival is known as ‘Khichiri’. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, the festival is known as Uttarayan.

Due to the variation in tradition through different cultures of India, the celebration procedure and myths behind the festival varies from region to region. The festival is dedicated to Sun God.

Why is Makar Sankranti celebrated? Makar Sankranti is observed to celebrate the transition of sun into the zodiac house of Capricorn. The Hindi version of Capricorn is “Makara”. Hence this day is known as “Makar Sankranti”. Sun God is worshiped at many places.

Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival. It is celebrated to mark the arrival of spring season.

Kite Flying: Flying kites are seen on the sky. This is done to please the Sun God.

Celebration: Makar Sankranti is generally celebrated a day after the Lohri fesitval. It is generally celebrated on 14th day of January every year.

  • It is extensively celebrated in different parts of India.
  • People wear new clothes and distribute sweets.
  • People take holy bath on this day.
  • Fairs (melas) are held in many cities.
  • World famous Kumbh mela is held every 12 years in the holy places.
  • People make sweets of sesame seeds (til). Semame sweets are traditionally consumed in India. It is very tasty and helps us to maintain good health.

Importance: 

  • The festival of Makar Sankranti is very important because it refers to the transition of sun into the zodiac house of Capricorn.
  • Makar Sankranti promotes a feeling of sense of unity among peoples.
  • People forget their past grievances and forgive one another.
  • Since it is a harvest festival, it is of utmost importance for the farmers.

Category: Essays, Paragraphs and ArticlesTagged With: Indian Festivals

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