Makar Sankranti: Kai Po Che! This year give Gujarat’s kite festival a go

By Pradeep Chamaria

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People shouting 'kai po che', blue skies changing colour and streets abuzz from dawn to dusk with people thronging various craft and local art stalls, this is how vibrant Gujarat welcomes you a week before Makar Sankranti. The famous International Kite Festival of 2020 commenced on January 7 at the riverfront in Ahmedabad, the kite capital of Gujarat. The colourful festival, beginning the week just before Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti, is an annual event where almost everyone in Gujarat, from children to adults, takes to the rooftops to fly kites, forgetting all other work they had. Age is no bar and people from all walks of life participate enthusiastically. People enjoy music that is blasting out on various rooftops while getting lost in the extravaganza.

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"When you see kites soaring high, your spirits also soar high. So, it can be called a festival of high spirits," said Gujarat Governor, Devrat Acharya, who unveiled the festival along with Chief Minister 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 related products," he added.

The kite festival, which will end on Makar Sankranti on January 14, is one of the biggest and most colourful festivals celebrated in Gujarat. For this festival, the kite makers in the state start their preparations months in advance. It is not unusual on the day after the festival to say, "The next kite festival is 364 days away." The festival also marks the day when winter starts to fade out, making way for spring and subsequently, the summer.

We enjoyed the inaugural ceremony and also flew a few kites and hope you will also want to come to Ahmedabad and love this colourful festival. We are sure that:

1. This colourful festival will leave you speechless and you will just stare at the colourful sky full of kites of different shapes and sizes.

2. You will definitely go out and try your hands at the kites from India as well as from other countries made by expert kite-makers from all over the world. The kite-makers spend months making mind-blowing kites using bamboo and good quality kite-paper and also the manjha which is a thread coated with special glass powder and rice paste specially made for kite flying.

3. You will indulge with the locals, and let the child in you force you to barge into a Gujarati house. The Gujaratis surely will welcome you with open hearts and invite you to climb the rooftops of their house where you can fly kites and participate in the friendly war of the kites for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.

4. At the riverfront, just sit and get entertained by the international kite flyers flying different types of kites, which could be in the form of birds, animals and sea creatures or could even be a huge series of kites on a single string! You may be lucky enough to see the famous kite flyers from Gujarat flying 100s of kites together on a string.

5. You will not miss paying a visit to the finest Gujarati food stalls and savour traditional and famous delicacies of Gujarat like undhiyu, jalebi, til ladoo and chikki.

(The author is a well-known travel writer. All images provided by the author. Views expressed are personal.)