India’s festival season lasts through the year. Most of its festivals have special meanings and have activities associated with them. For example, the Kite Playing or Kite Fighting festival that takes place every year in January.
India is a diverse country with a rich culture. There are festivals through the country that celebrate each region and its history. Times may have changed but the enthusiasm remains the same for celebrating our traditions and rituals. Festivals like Diwali, Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi are very famous across the world. People know about it but there are many festivals that are not known globally. The festival of Sankranti is really special and also kicks off the new year for Indians. India sets store to days and festivals by the lunar cycle. The Hindu calendar bases its days and time according to the moon unlike the Western world. Makar Sankranti is the only day they celebrate according to the solar cycle. That’s why the date for the festival doesn’t change every year like other Indian festivals.
Everybody knows the Winter Solstice. Makar Sankranti means the end of the Winter Solstice. It implies the end of winter and the beginning of longer days. This festival is celebrated annually on 14th January. It is also the longest night of the year. According to Hindus, the inauspicious season ends on 14th January. The festival marks the beginning of ‘Uttarayana‘ which is a positive time and period for Hindus. It is known with many diverse names across the country, like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Maghi in Punjab, and Poush Sankranti in the state of West Bengal. People usually take a dip in holy water and pray to the Sun God. They wear new clothes and prepare local delicacies to eat as meals. There are many other activities associated with Makar Sankranti. Most fun and important of them all is Kite Fighting.
Kite Fighting is as the name suggests. Men, women, and children fly kites and try to cut each other’s kites. The goal is to cut as many kites as you can so you win. In Gujarat and Maharashtra, the kites are decorated in various shapes and designs. You can find cartoon characters, local gods and goddesses, floral designs, animals and birds shaped as kites. The kites used for Kite Fighting are single-line kites where the line is sharp enough to cut through other lines. The Kites are made of thin paper and the strings are made of cotton. As Kite Fighting is getting competitive, the strings or Manjha are made of crushed glass or coated with metal. Villagers use some home made paste to strengthen their strings. Kites are known as ‘Patang’ in India. Players team up with another player so one can hold the ‘Manjha’ or cutting line/string. The competition gets intense and communities offer rewards to winners. If a Kite Fighter manages to cut another kite, he/she has to scream ‘Kai Po Che’ to announce his victory.
Kite Fighting or Playing has been amply represented in literature, films, and books. India has a lot of movies that depict it such as Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Kai Po Che and so on. The Kite Runner was a very popular book turned movie that was based on Kite Fighting and running. Environmentalists and animal lovers are getting concerned by this festival and its increasing violence. The sharp strings and kites lead to slitting birds or injuring them. Players also end up injuring themselves because of the sharp cutting lines or strings. Kids get electrocuted as kites end up falling on electricity lines and they have to remove them. The Government and institutions are trying to ban kite sales and Kite fighting to avoid further damages.
Featured Photo by nevil zaveri (thank U for 15M views:)