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Upcoming Festival

International Kite Festival, Ahmedabad
7th to 14th January 2018

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 neighbors.

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.

Hosted by Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the International Kite Festival attracts a huge audience in most esoteric abundance from far and wide. A phenomenal diversity of kites can be witnessed in the blue sky above that range from box kites to high-speed sports kites; from windsocs and spinsocs to hand-painted artistic kites. Indeed this colourful festival of kites ensures across the horizon the sky truly remains veiled behind the various esplanades of kites seen in all variety of hues, shapes and sizes.

The day unfolds with crowded rooftops, witnessing fun-filled friendly rivalry to outshine each other in kite flying competition, coupled with savouring delicious Gujarati dishes which are the hall-marks of this eventful day. The night sees the advent of the illuminated box kites carrying brightly lit lanterns, often in a series strung on each line. Known as Tukkals, these kites add a touch of grand splendour to the esoteric darkness of and sky above us.

Parents who normally find their children hard to get out of bed for school will find them setting the alarm for 5 am to wake up and start their day with flying kites in the ideal pre-dawn wind. The atmosphere is wonderfully festive, as families gather on the rooftop savouring special festive cuisine that includes laddoos ,undhyu or suratijamun. Often people look out for which of their friends has the optimum terrace for kite flying and many will congregate there. This festival witnesses a mega celebration where in Kite Flying Competitions are organised involving people from all across the globe to demonstrate their uniqueness and creativity, enough to mesmerize the crowd with their highly unusual kites.

Since 1989, the city of Ahmedabad has hosted the International Kite Festival as part of their official celebration of Uttarayan, thus bringing master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to converge and demonstrate their unique creations comprising of 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.

Kites are believed to have first arrived in India either through Muslim traders coming eastward through Persia or Buddhist pilgrims coming from China in search of sacred texts. Either way, they have a long history in the region. Since Gujarat is at the westernmost edge of India, it is one of the regions where Muslim and Hindu cultures have blended to a great degree in many aspects. Hence, the development of using kites probably brought by Muslims, to celebrate Uttarayan, a Hindu festival. Interestingly no one knows as to when this tradition began. It's indeed an amazing example of cultural and religious integration.

Visitors flock from all around India for the celebration, which include Gujaratis living outside the state, and international visitors who come from countless countries, including Japan, Italy, UK, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia, USA, Malaysia, Singapore, France, China, and many more. The next episode to this festival is destined from 7th to 14th Jan, 2018.

Truly a festival to reckon, the International Kite Festival is worth being a part of…!!