Uttarayan Festival | Kite Festival Of Gujarat
Uttar (उत्तर) means North and Ayan (आयन) means movement in Hindi, hence Uttarayan (उत्तरायण) means the movement of the Sun towards North. The entry of the sun in any zodiac sign is referred to as Sankranti, hence the time when the Sun enters in the 10th sign of the zodiac called Makar ( Capricorn) is called Makar Sankranti. In India Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan is celebrated on 14th January every year and is fixed in the solar calendar. It is a very auspicious occasion to perform social activities such as weddings as the day marks the decline of the winter season.
Significance of Uttarayan
This event represents the forward movement of the earth on the celestial sphere. This festival is important because, during historical times, these periods helped individuals keep up with the solar cycle and movement of the earth.
In Gujarat, the day is commonly known as the Uttarayan or the Kite festival because everyone joins together to show their kite flying skills on this day. 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. Traditionally, the delicacies of Gujarat, especially undhiyu and jalebi are eaten on this day.
Kite flying is an integral part of Makar Sankranti celebrations across different parts of the country, but it is mostly done with great enthusiasm in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The sky is roofed with kites of various colors and sizes. On Uttarayan day people wake up early and head to the roof of a house or building and fly a kite. From dawn to dusk, the competition of the highest-flying kite takes place.
After sunset, the kites disappear and the paper lanterns or tukkals come out. Everyone releases a lantern in the sky to mark the end of a beautiful day. The lanterns symbolize the release of evil energies in one’s life, and as they soar and light up the sky, it represents the bright opportunities one can have in the future.
International Kite Festival
During Uttarayan Gujarat is all set for the celebration of their most awaited International Kite Festival. During this festival, you can see millions of kites color the skies in what is believed to be the world’s biggest kite festival. It was first in 1989 when the first International Kite Festival was hosted in Ahmedabad. Transcending religion and geography, people from all over India and abroad participate in this incredible kite extravaganza that marks Makara Sankranti or the beginning of summer. The entire state of Gujarat comes to standstill during the festival of Uttarayan. All shops, schools, offices, and other regular activities cease to function so that locals can take up their patangs or kites and join in the fun.
The main competition is between fierce kite flyers who battle to break their opponent’s kite strings and bring down their kite. A special kite string called Manja is made with a combination of glue and glass made especially for cutting the kite strings of nearby rivals. Almost all types of kite varieties, seen elsewhere in the world, fly above the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Officially Uttarayan starts every year in January but in practice, people get into the festive spirit already months beforehand when they begin making and selling kites in anticipation of the big event. The selling and buying of kites don’t get more intense than at the famous Patang Bazaar of Dilli Diwaraja in the heart of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city. During the week leading up to the festival, this market remains open 24 hours. The Uttarayan festival in Gujarat has grown into such a big celebration that it has become a public state holiday every 14 January. Cuisine and Crafts display are also enjoyed by the participants and spectators.
Like any other festival, Uttarayan is an opportunity for friends and family to get together and celebrate it with the flying kite. Delicious food is prepared in homes with the most popular food of the day is til ladoos (Til Gul Ghya), Undhiyu, khichdo, and lilva ni kachori. Along with these, people also prepare puran poli, which is a flatbread stuffed with jaggery and gram flour in it with pure ghee. It is believed that all these food items help in keeping the body warm during the winters.
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So, this Uttarayan enjoy the festive ambiance with a twist of food, save birds, and stay away from glass-coated Manja and fire lanterns.