INDIA. Ahmadabad, Gujarat: India is a land of varied cultures, and festivals are held here almost on a daily basis. One such festival, the Kite Festival of flying kites and cutting away the manjha (a special kind of thread coated with glass powder and rice paste) to win a friendly battle will make you happy and joyous. Tissue paper is cut into a diamond-shape and two strips of bamboo are attached to it to make a kite (Patangs, or Guddi in Hindi). With the help of manjha held by human hand, it is manoeuvred to soar high in the sky.
The festival is celebrated on different occasions throughout India, namely, on Makar Sankranti in Gujarat and Rajasthan, Ganga Dusshera in Uttar Pradesh, Independence Day in Delhi, Vishwakarma Puja in West Bengal, and so on. The skies are filled up with millions of kites, all trying to cut each other down. Every family climbs up the rooftop of their house to enjoy a picnic with their daily meals and flying throughout the day.
International Kite Festival
Flying kites in fact is not new to India, it has been there since ages after being introduced to India by the Chinese travelers, Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang and have become a tradition of Indian culture.
The most colourful International Kite Festival is organised at the capital of the most vibrant state in India, Gujarat by Gujarat Tourism. On the day of Uttarayan, it is one of the major festivals in Gujarat and is celebrated by almost every renowned kite flyer in the world. Hosted every year, at the Sabarmati riverfront since 1989, the festival attracts master flyers from Argentina, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Russia, Poland, the Philippines, and others. The sky turns into a riot of colours with traditional as well as unconventional kites in different shapes and sizes.
Almost every normal activity in Gujarat shuts down on this day and everyone, from kids to young to seniors, takes to the rooftops to fly kites. This is a festival where there is no age bar, and people from all walks of life enthusiastically participate in the festivity.
“When you see kites soaring high, you see the reflection of your progress as well. So, it can be called a festival of growth and prosperity,” said Gujarat governor, Shri Devrat Acharya, last year while unveiling the festival along with the Chief Minister, Shri Vijaybhai Rupani. “Thanks to this festival, the kite-making business in Gujarat has grown seven times in the last 10 years,” the chief minister informed. “It has helped all those who are in the business of making kites and other related products.”
Deluge of kites
I found the riverfront in Ahmadabad full of kites in the sky in various shapes like animals, fishes, colourful masks etc. One has Gandhi printed on it, while some had social messages on them. The sculpture kites comprised a chain of 5-20 small kites.
Mike Tysiac from Germany grabbed everyone’s attention as he flew his 40-feet-long inflatable dolphin kite. In Gujarat, how can one forget Mahatma Gandhi,” said another foreigner, who was flying a kite with a sketch of Mahatma Gandhi on a rectangular kite. “We have been fortunate to see the joyous moods on house terraces in the state,” said Aude Maincent from France.
Indian fliers also were quite excited about participating in the festival. A member of a flyers’ group from Jaipur that had a giant-sized kite, informed, “We participate in almost every kite festival held in India. And this one is the best and the biggest kite festival.” I also spotted many politicians decorating the kites; of course, Prime Minister Narender Modi dominated.
Foods associated with kite festival
Any festival is incomplete without food in Gujarat and I also enjoyed various types of food from the food stalls set up especially for the festival. I preferred to gorge on the tasty traditional food specially made for Utrayan, like Undhiyu (spicy, baked mix of winter vegetables) and chikkis (made from til, peanuts, and jaggery). There were food from other parts of India like Khichdi, Chura, sweets made of Til (sesame seeds) and sing dana (peanuts) such as tilgur, chikki etc. from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Punjab, and traditional sweets from Bengal like Pithey made of rice flour, coconut, milk and khejurer gur (date palm jaggery).
Kite makes colony visit
As usual and as I love to explore deep, I felt a visit to the Patang Bazar was inevitable. And there I went into a congested colony in Jamalpur, where almost every resident of a predominantly Muslim locality is engaged in making kites and the paraphernalia associated. It’s like a cottage industry here with almost 1200 families engaged in it. One such Patang maker informed me that it takes almost, nine members of a family to make a kite with the decorations being done by ladies.