International Kite Festival in Gujarat
Uttarayan is the name of the international kite festival that is held in Gujarat every year. This festival takes place during Sankranti on the 14th of January and carries on till the 15th of January. Kite flying has been a sport that has been liked by several generations in the past and has been carried forward and enjoyed in villages as well as in cities on a bigger scale through the years, However, the first international kite flying festival took place in India at Gujarat in the year 1989. People from all over the country and across the world participated and showcased their creatively crafted kites and kite-flying skills. Ever since, Uttarayan is regarded as one of the biggest festivals in Gujarat and has been a much awaited and looked forward to event.
This festival signifies the end of winter and the beginning of summer, when the sun is back, the days become longer and the skies clearer. It is a sign of the harvest season and is celebrated with much gusto in different ways. Months before this festival, families in Gujarat prepare and ready their kites for the event. The markets are filled with materials used to make the kites and thronged by participants to pick up their supplies. Some of the cities have specific kite bazaars, which remain open through the day and night with buyers and sellers bargaining for kites in bulk. The kites flaunted are of all shapes, designs and sizes, ranging from nine inches to three feet.
These days have been designated as a public holiday in Gujarat, so that everyone with their families can participate and enjoy the festival, irrespective of status, caste and religion. People of all ages, from kids to the elderly, come out onto their terraces or rooftops and indulge merrily in kite-flying from dawn to dusk. Even though some participate competitively and knock down or cut other people’s kites, it is all taken sportingly and in good spirit. While kite-flying may look very easy, it is indeed an art and a skill that is honed with practice. The kite that flies the highest, longest and can cut down many other kites, is definitely regarded as the best. Even the nights are not a deterrent for many enthusiastic people. They fly illuminated box kites called Tukkal which create a magical spectacle in the dark skies.
Traditional Gujarati food is the highlight of the day. Undhiyo, a winter dish, is a preparation of various types of mixed vegetables, beans and roots and is a definite part of the feast. Other items like sesame seed chikki, luscious jalebis etc are also part of the spread.
While this festival is celebrated in several cities of Gujarat, Telangana and Rajasthan, like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Hyderabad, Nadiad, Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur, the international kite event takes place in the ‘kite capital’ of the state, Ahmedabad. Tourists and participants from across the world, such as the U.S, Canada, Brazil, China, Japan, Singapore, Hongkong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Italy, France and many more countries descend here to enjoy this festival. These international participants have influenced the festival in a big way owing to their special and unique kind of kites. For eg. The Chinese Flying-Dragon kites, the Japanese Rokkaku fighting kites, the US giant banner kites, the Italian sculptural kites etc. All of these only motivate our local participants to get more creative and innovative with their kites with every passing year. Celebrities from various fields grace this occasion to entertain the huge population that arrives for this event. During the event, kite markets are also set up along-side the food stalls and other counters and attractions.
A kite museum, located at Sanskar Kendra in the Paldi area of Ahmedabad is a great point of attraction for these enthusiasts where they can find some of the most unique kites.
Picture Credits: Interschool Quiz/ Travel Quiz/ Study Tour Operator, A4ahmedabad