Shyam told me once, if you really want to celebrate a festival, then you must visit Gujarat. This time around, I happened to celebrate Uttarayan in Baroda. We reached Baroda couple of days before the festival day. The moment I stepped into the city, I knew that Shyam was right. Gujarati’s celebrate like crazy.
Origin of Uttarayan. Why fly kites?
Makar Sankranti is celebrated all over India. Every state has its own tradition and way of celebrating the festival. Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Makar (Capricorn). According to the Puranas, Sun visits the house of his son, Shani who happens to be the owner of Makar (Capricorn) Rasi. The father & son duo do not get along well. However, Sun still makes the effort to come to Shani’s house and stays there for over a month. This signifies Makar Sankranti and also the father-son relationship. Another theory is that Makar Sankranti marks the end of harsh winters. Flying kites gives the much-needed warmth and sunlight to the body, which is affected by the dry and cold winter.
Whatever be the reason, festivals are like rays of sunshine to the otherwise routine life.
Patang Bazaar (The Kite Market)
Kites for Uttarayan are made of special light-weight paper and bamboo with a central spine and a single bow. Patang Bazaars are set up in every corner of the city. Most of the kites are rhombus-shaped, but there are other shapes as well. There are some Bollywood and Love theme kites too. How can Bollywood not intervene? With a galore of options to choose from, the patang bazar with all its lovely colors is sure to mesmerize anyone. If you happen to visit Baroda during Uttarayan, do not miss the bazaar in Raopura and Mandvi. They are the best; one can experience the excitement and craziness in those crowded, narrow lanes of Raopura and Mandvi. And, be prepared for the traffic jams. Don’t blame me, I warned you. 🙂
Manja is the mixture made of powdered glass, gum, and colors; which is then coated on to the thread (also known as dori). This makes the thread stronger and sharper. This thread is then rolled onto big wheels and left to dry under the sun. The thread is then rolled to make the ‘Phirki’. The manja and patang happen to be a huge business in Gujarat.
Food is something you cannot separate from India. Food in Gujarat is incredible. I am such a huge fan of Gujarati cuisine and flavors. Uttarayan is about fafdas, jalebis, undhiyu, til chikkis and so much more. Undhiyu in particular steals the show. Undhiyu is a seasonal preparation made especially during winters and Uttarayan, because of the availability of so many green and leafy vegetables. I love the Undhiyu from Jagdish and Payal Farsan in Baroda. Undhiyu is spicy, sweet and everything in between. A beautiful marriage of flavors.
If you thought kite-flying was just another tradition; you would be surprised to know this. Gujarati’s are extremely passionate about kites and it is a serious business. Kite selection is the first step. There are kites made from paper and plastic. There are kites with ponytails, triangle-shaped tails, plain kites, kites with designs, heavy kites and many more. Each one’s got a local name. Tying the kinna is the second step. Kinna is a special way of tying the thread to the kite. This is the most important and essential step – make a mistake here and your kite won’t take off.
And then the fun begins:
The kites begin to fly. There’s loud music playing from every direction. There’s a different song heard on every corner of the terrace. There’s so much of food. The day begins with the young from the family flying kites. As the day progresses, everyone including young girls, parents and grandparents move to the terrace. There’s more kites, more food, more music. You get the picture. 🙂
The sky is filled with colorful kites and balloons. There is competition in the air. People cut each others kites shouting ‘e lapet’ or ‘kai po che’. There are a bunch of people who try to get hold of the kites that are cut. Some children do the ‘kite-operation’ – mending the kites for minor wear and tear. And oh! No one forgets to get hold of that extra dori coming their way.
There is something for everybody in Uttarayan. Kite flying is a wonderful sport and I loved it. Uttarayan celebrates the sport, food and the season in the most beautiful way.