Uttarayan, also known as Makar Sankranti, is a vibrant and jubilant festival celebrated with great zeal by Gujaratis around the world. This annual event marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn, and it is observed on January 14th or 15th each year, depending on the Hindu calendar. Uttarayan is a festival that radiates joy, color, and cultural significance, bringing communities together in a unique and memorable way.
The Celebration of Kites
At the heart of Uttarayan lies the exhilarating tradition of kite flying. As early as 6 am, the skies above Gujarat come alive with a breathtaking spectacle of colorful kites soaring high. From dawn to dusk, families and friends gather on rooftops and open spaces to participate in this joyful and competitive activity. The sight of countless kites adorning the sky is breathtaking.
The preparation for Uttarayan often starts weeks in advance. Kite makers and enthusiasts meticulously craft kites, with each one featuring intricate designs and vibrant colors. The thrill of flying a kite and engaging in friendly competitions with neighboring kite flyers is an experience that transcends generations.
Why Do Gujaratis Celebrate Uttarayan?
Uttarayan holds immense cultural significance for the people of Gujarat. It is more than just a festival; it is a celebration of the changing seasons, harvest time, and the promise of longer and warmer days ahead. For farmers, it is a time of gratitude as they reap the rewards of their hard work in the fields.
The festival also symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and the gradual increase of positive energy as the days become longer. It is a time for renewal, reflection, and embracing the newfound warmth of the sun.
What is the religious significance of Uttarayan?
Beyond its cultural and seasonal significance, Uttarayan also holds religious importance. It is celebrated as Makar Sankranti across India, marking the sun’s transition into the zodiac sign of Capricorn. In Gujarat, it is also observed as the day when the sun god, Surya, is worshiped. Devotees take holy dips in rivers and offer prayers to Surya Dev as a way of seeking blessings for a prosperous year ahead.
Uttarayan coincides with the harvest season when farmers see the fruits of their labor, and this abundance is often celebrated by making offerings to the gods. Sesame seeds and jaggery sweets, known as til-gud or chikki, are exchanged among friends and family as a symbol of unity and good luck.
The Spirit of Unity and Togetherness
What sets Uttarayan apart is its power to bring people together. It transcends barriers of age, gender, and social status. Families and friends in India spend hours on rooftops, flying kites, enjoying traditional foods, and creating cherished memories.
The competitive spirit of kite flying adds an extra layer of excitement to the festivities. Skilled kite flyers engage in aerial battles, attempting to cut the strings of their opponents’ kites. The cry of “kai po che!” (I’ve cut!) echoes through the skies as victorious kite flyers celebrate their wins.
Out of all the festivals, I have most fun during Uttarayan. I captured this fun through the eyes of Dad and Son, who deepen their bond at Uttarayan, symbolizing the spirit of unity and togetherness through a children’s book called ‘Dancing with Kites: An Uttarayan Adventure‘.