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Blue skies with colourful kites

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The Indian community relives the famous kite festival of Gujarat

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Gujarat in India may be miles away from Australia, but that does not deter Gujaratis living in South Australia from celebrating the popular kite festival also known as Makar Sankranti.

On a bright, sunny and windy day, some 200 members of the Gujarati community gathered at the Fawk Reserve, Athol Park in South Australia to decorate the blue skies with colourful kites. It was a treat to watch as other communities from India, Sri Lanka and Australia also participated in the day-long event.

Free paper kites from India, complete with Indian thread (manjo) were distributed, sponsored by Coles. Heartfelt Indian mehman nawazi was evident when all were individually invited to help themselves to the free food and drinks.

“The feeling of this festival is kept alive in our hearts here in Adelaide by the Guajarati people represented by Gurjari SA Inc,” stated a spokesperson from the organisation.

“Each year Gurjari endeavours to bring people from different communities together to celebrate the kite festival Uttarayan and participate in a healthy kite war. Kids are given kites to fly and food and drinks are provided for all at this popular free event”, added the spokesperson.

The star highlight of the afternoon was a taste of chikki (sweets made of jaggery and sesame seeds) which were reminiscent of Uttarayan in India.

According to the organisers, January is a month of changing winds and flourishing crops in India and is the precursor of festivities. Back in India, the kite festival is spent on terraces of houses with loud music, lots of snacks and full-fledged dhamal. All age groups participate in this festival and are judged by their kite flying/cutting skills (Kai po che)! Age, caste and creed are no bar at the festivities, which go on from dawn to dusk.

In Gujarat the festival of Uttarayan is one of the grandest holidays, with every family enjoying being outdoors. Crowded rooftops, fun-filled rivalry in outdoing each other in kite flying skills, and a delicious traditional Gujarati feast are the hallmarks of the day.

The fascination and the revelry associated with kite flying cuts across age groups, class and communities. Although, Uttarayan is predominantly a Hindu festival marking the awakening of the gods from their deep slumber, history has it that India developed a rich tradition of kite flying due to the patronage of the kings and nawabs who found the sport both entertaining and a way of displaying their prowess. Trained fliers were employed to fly kites for the royals. Slowly, the art started becoming popular amongst the masses.

 

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