Celebrating the Hindu Kite Festival in India
I’ve just returned from flying kites for the past six hours. I am slightly sunburned and rather parched, but I had a beautiful day with the locals celebrating the Hindu Kite Festival, also known as Makar Sankranti.
Makar Sankranti is a massive celebration of Surya, the Sun God. On this day, it is believed that Lord Shani, Lord Surya’s son, is visited by his father and that their differences are put aside. It is a day of forgiveness and starting afresh. Many people make it a priority to visit their sons and to bring them gifts.
In essence, this festival is associated with nature and harvest. Great importance is given to the sun, and this day signals the beginning of spring and the end of winter. For the next six months, the day will be longer and warmer. People pray for a plentiful harvest day, and cows are bathed and worshiped. The sun is greeted with a chant called the Gayatri Mantra.
This holy day was all about relaxing, flying kites, and spending time with friends and family.
The six-month long Uttarayana begins on the Makar Sankrant day. From this day, the harshness of winter subsides and the days get longer. Symbolically, the sun slowly removes darkness and ushers in the light of knowledge. Uttarayana is also the daytime of the Devas and therefore auspicious activities take place during this period.
We climbed into a rickshaw around 10:30 a.m. and headed to a rooftop about 10 minutes away. I have been volunteering at a leprosy colony in Ahmedabad, India, and today a festive spirit filled the entire country of India. This holy day was all about relaxing, flying kites, and spending time with friends and family.
The volunteers were invited to the founder of Manav Sadhna’s private home for a day-long celebration. His home was surrounded by lush green trees, playful monkeys, and stunning outdoor spaces to enjoy amongst new and old friends.
The first task of the day was to learn how to tie the string properly to the kites! There is definitely a science to this, and I had to try several times before I got the right measurements and angles and number of knots. After the kite was correctly constructed, it was time to learn how to make it soar.
I thought this would be easy, but I quickly realized that the people who had the highest kites (more than 100 yards in the air!) had been doing this for years! My kite never got as high as those who have lived here and had practiced for lifetimes, but with much help my kite was soaring high in the sky.
Then…it was cut from the sky in an instant. The goal of the day is to have the last kite flying. So, it is customary to cut the kites from the air. Finely ground glass is added to the dye, and then mixed with flour to create a paste. That paste is then applied to the kite string. The glass makes for sharp string so kites can be cut from the sky.
Caution of course must be taken so that injuries do not happen. I wore a scarf all day to protect my neck from the strings—many deaths have occurred in the past. I also wore sunglasses to protect my eyes. Many of the locals fly kites from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. must wrap their fingers in protective tape—but even after a few hours, I still witnessed bloody hands!
It was such a treat to be in India on one of the biggest festivals of the year. When I arrived back to my hotel, I opened the curtains to find the sun setting over thousands of people on rooftops, kites billowing in the breeze. It was a perfect way to end the day!
Top photo for Celebrating the Hindu Kite Festival in India by Unsplash.