Uttarayan is celebrated across Gujarat, with major centers of kite-flying in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Nadiad, among others. The International Kite Festival is held in Ahmedabad. Remember Narendra Modiji invited Salman Khan for kite flying festival couple of years ago?
My sister-in-law Shashi along with her children Rishabh & Rashi were here from Ahmedabad for their Christmas vacations which we thoroughly enjoyed with our children. While bidding good-bye, she did not forget to invite me to famed International Kite festival 2016 on Uttarayan at Ahmedabad. I wondered going to Ahmedabad for kite flying, when my own building terrace gets converted into mini Ahmedabad on Makar Sankranti? No! & Yes! This is when I started research on ‘Patang Parv’ for my own self and my esteemed readers. It is an emphatic yes now that I would be visiting Ahmedabad for Uttarayan in 2017 as I have missed the bus this year, well almost!
Initially launched as a regional affair in 1986, it was styled as International kite festival in 1989. Held under auspices of the ‘Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited, is always being held at Gujarat coincide with Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The International Kite Festival at Ahmedabad is an extravaganza of kite flying, competition, culinary and crafting delights enjoyed by huge gathering of people there. On January 14, the number of kites flying over Ahmedabad could be around 4 million.
Before anything, what is the significance of kite – flying on Uttarayan?
The festival of Uttarayan is a uniquely Gujarati phenomenon, when the skies over most cities of the state fill with kites from before dawn until well after dark. The festival marks the days in the Hindu calendar when winter begins turning to summer, known as Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan. On what is usually a bright warm sunny day with brisk breezes to lift the kites aloft, across the state almost all normal activity is shut down and everyone takes to the rooftops and roadways to fly kites and compete with their neighbours.
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.
Parents who normally find their children hard to get out of bed for school will find them setting the alarm for 5 am on 14th Jan., to get up and start flying kites in the ideal pre-dawn wind. The atmosphere is wonderfully festive, as whole families gather on the rooftop, special foods like laddoos, undhyu or surati jamun are prepared for eating over the course of the day, and friends and neighbors visit each other for group kite-flying fun. At night, kite fighters send up bright white kites to be seen in the darkness, and skilled flyers will send aloft their tukkals with strings of brightly lit lanterns in a long line leading back down to the rooftop. From early morning to late at night, Uttarayan provides lots of fun and beautiful sights to remember for a long time.
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. A master kite maker and famous kite flyer Rasulbhai Rahimbhai of Ahmedabad trains of up to 500 kites on a single string have come to be a classic attraction. Almost every known variety of kite can be seen in the skies over Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, from box kites to high-speed sport kites, from windsocks and spinsocs to hand-painted artistic kites.
Dates & Venue for Year 2016
Jan. 8 at Surat & Rajkot
Jan. 9 at Vadodara & BhavNagar
Jan. 10 & 11 at River Front Side Ahmedabad
Jan. 12 at Ahmedabad, Bhuj and Porebandar
Jan 13 at Ahmedabad, Modhera and Khambat
Jan. 14 at Pol, Ahmedabad
List of International kitists participating in IKF – 16
UK, Germany, Austria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, the USA, Canada, Thailand, Italy, Estonia, Cambodia, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Philippines, Vietnam, Argentina, China, Turkey, Brazil, Belgium, Israel, France, Nigeria Poland, South Korea – Approx. 100 people
Participants from outside Gujarat:
Chandigarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal
No wonder it looks like that a magical symphony of colour and movement against exciting back drop of general bonhomie, greets the visitor during Gujarat’s fabled Uttarayan Festivities at the International Kite Festival. Nowhere is this joyous day celebrated with as much fervour as it is in Gujarat. An integral part of Gujarati culture for over 300 years now kite flying has reached astonishing heights, with everyone join the fun frolic as you hear joyous shouts of “kaipoche” or ‘lapper’. Cashing on the huge popularity, the state machinery has moved into top gear to make Uttarayan a major competitive international event in Ahmedabad – aptly called kite capital of India.
You can visit the festival taking help of Gujarat Tourism website.
Information Courtesy: Gujarat Tourism, TOI