My obscure holidays calendar lists today as International Kite Day. I did a quick search and discovered that practically all of the links for the events were for sites in India. There were other sites that mentioned different kite days that fall during the spring months in other nations, including the US in April.
My impressions about kites do not make me think about January days. Traditionally, kites are associated with the arrival of springlike weather and windy days. Kites and the month of March are the perfect match. I have a fuzzy memory of building a kite from scratch in March when I was an eight-year-old Cub Scout.
Why would there be an International Kite Day anywhere in the northern hemisphere in January? I decided to email my friend Paaval who lives in Mumbai. I asked him “What is the International Kite Day?” I also wondered, “Why do I only find links for this event for only a few states in India?”
Paaval’s email reply answered the second question first. The term “International” for an event held only in India makes as much sense as baseball’s “World Series” being held exclusively in North America. He has a valid point. He added that global participants and observers are invited to attend.
The answer to the first question is more detailed and provides a small window into traditional Indian culture. It is connected with Makar Sandranti in India. Paaval said this is the day the Sun transits into the Zodiac sign of Makara Rashi (Capricorn, in western nations).
Traditionally, Makar Sandranti marks the first day of Uttarayana which means the apparent northward movement of the Sun. Uttaryana is derived from the Sanskrit words “uttara” for North and “ayana” for movement. This season will last for six months at which time Dakshinayana begins. Some Indians believe that Uttarayana is the “daytime of the Gods” while Dakshinayana is the “nighttime of the Gods”. Hence, Makar Sandranti is a very auspicious day all over India.
Although International Kite Day can be celebrated in any Indian State, the largest festivals are found in Gujarat and Rajasthan. One of the most popular events is in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Elaborately crafted kites are flown from before sunrise well into the night. At night, tukals (illuminated kites) are the main features. The kite day is a major festival for the local population. Special kite kiosks appear alongside food stalls. There are kite displays and traditional performances.
Another popular event takes place in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The state government has organized a three day festival that runs from January 12th to the 14th. Kite makers and fans display and fly their various kites. Organizers invite tourists from everywhere on Earth to enjoy activities that are similar to those mentioned in Ahmedabad.
Pavaal says he will not be attending any of the major International Kite Day celebrations because he will be at work most of the day. He will probably watch television news stories about them, instead.