The second best thing about being born and brought up in India has to be the numerous festivals we have grown up celebrating and do so till date, I mean it’s pretty obvious India’s vast array of various cuisines takes the no.1 spot indefinitely, but yes, the festivals do come a close second.
Sure everybody enjoys the usual suspects; Diwali, Holi, Navratri, Ganesh Chathurti, but there are so many more colorful and interesting festivals this country celebrates, and one of them is Makar Sankranti. Dedicated to the Sun God, the festival marks the six months auspicious period for Hindus and is associated with prosperity. You may have observed that this day is celebrated by friendly kite flying competitions, where neighbors all gather on their respective roof tops and engage in a friendly ‘kite bout’. Why kites? Well apparently our ancestors believed in the benefits of exposing yourself to the therapeutic first rays of the morning sun, and what better way to do it that with some kite flying!
One of the states which fiercely celebrates this festival is Gujarat. Infact, they are so serious about this festival that they have been actually celebrating it with the world! Founded in 1989, the International Kite Festival sees throngs of participants from various countries come and not only enjoy the delightful hospitality of Gujarat but also showcase some of the most unique kites ever seen. This year Gujarat celebrated it’s 28th International Kite Festival and I got to be a part of it thanks to the Gujarat Tourism department which invited me to experience this unique festival.
I had no idea what to expect, it was not only my first time at the festival but also to the state. I flew into Ahmedabad all geared up for what promised to be a fun weekend. Set against the backdrop of the Sabarmati river, the International Kite Festival kept the mood sublime. In addition to a spectacular display of kites, the festival homed some craft stalls and a delightful food court that served up lip smacking Gujarati delicacies. The crowd gathered at the massive grounds as the Governor of the state officially marked the opening of the Kite Flying season and the festival.
What’s a festival without a little dancing and singing, and in this case dancing, singing and yoga! The dancers in their colorful traditional attires kept the mood vibrant and colorful, while over 2000 kids from various schools in Ahmedabad displayed the most coordinated Surya Namaskar drill ever!
The cultural show and Surya Namaskar drill later, the kites soared high in the sky. A total of 31 countries participated in this year’s festivals, teams from Lituania, Poland, Italy, France, Vietnam and even Estonia were here to boast their kite flying skills.
There were 186 participants with 51 of them from India itself. Until then I had no idea that kite flying could actually be taken so seriously! I had the chance to speak with the mother-daughter team from Lithuania who seemed super thrilled to be a part of the festival, the mom had participated earlier, but this time was special as it was her daughter’s first time at the competition. Team Vietnam seemed sure of their prowess and were confident that their Kites would be amongst the ones that’d steal the show. The couple from Poland definitely stood out and were the most photographed thanks to their enthusiastic energy and choice of headgear! Team Gujarat led with pride and why not! After all it was their State that was hosting this unique festival with so much fervor.
The kites were a spectacular bunch and came in all shapes and sizes, some so big that I had to duck out of the way while they were making their way up to the sky. It was the day where Spiderman soared in the Indian Skies, a couple of stingrays and an octopus swam, but not in the sea, and a man decided that the world needed to see his face looking down on them from up above; these and many more such unique kites could be seen seen gracing the sunny Ahmedabad skies.
I had a great time here and even gave kite flying a try (I sucked btw, but hey who cares!).It’s wonderful to see how Gujarat is working towards boosting their tourism through such unconventional festivals and events. Hope you enjoyed reading about this unique festival and maybe, just maybe you can consider adding this to your list of things to do as well!