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As December draws to a close, the state of Gujarat in India gets submerged in a whole new celebration. Every new year on the festive occasion of Uttarayan (Makar Sankranti in North India and Pongal in Tamil Nadu), celebrated every January 14, Ahmedabad hosts the International Kite Festival. Planning your next visit? Here’s what you can look forward to on your trip.
No matter your age, if you’re in Ahmedabad during Uttarayan, you won’t be able to stop yourself from flying kites. All other activities come to a standstill as people take to flying kites on their terraces, roads and open spaces. Thousands of kites in different colors, shapes and sizes can be seen in the sky. The entire atmosphere turns into a huge rooftop party with families and neighbors collectively flying kites, loud Bollywood music in the background and yummy Gujarati snacks.
The International Kite Festival is where you get to see an assortment of kites. Inflatables, parafoils, rokkakus, delta kites, box kites, diamond-shaped kites, sleds, traditional kites, and what not – you name it and the festival will have it for you to see. High-speed sport kites and hand-painted artistic kites have also been quite popular. Kites from different countries like China, Japan, Thailand, etc. are brought especially for the kite festival. Even Manjha, a special string prepared for the festival with glass and glue combined, comes in numerous varieties.
Rasulbhai Rahimbhai is the master kitemaker of Ahmedabad. His kites hold a special place in the International Kite Festival. The ‘chain’ of kites prepared by him, which is a long queue of 500 kites on one single string, is the center of attention. Visitors from across the world come specially to see his beautiful kites flying high in the sky. Make sure to tick this off your bucket list when you visit Gujarat for the festival.
Such is the atmosphere in Gujarat and the enthusiasm for the festival, that people just don’t seem to rest. Kite flying is taken to a whole new level when the night starts to fall. Tukkals or lighted paper lanterns are attached to the kite strings and flown throughout the night. The entire sky looks mesmerizing with beautiful lanterns lit up above, as the city of Ahmedabad soaks into the celebration.
If you land well in time in Ahmedabad for the International Kite Festival, then Patang Bazaar is the place where you get to do your kite shopping. This is a special kite market in the old city where huge numbers of kites are sold and purchased. The production of kites starts from early November here and goes on until Uttarayan. And just a week prior to the kite festival, the market remains open for 24 hours. So head to the market any time and take your pick of the most colorful kite.
Undhiyu is a special Gujarati mixed vegetable dish prepared for the festive occasion of Uttarayan. Though it’s the regional delicacy of Surat, the dish is cooked and consumed in every household in Gujarat during the International Kite Festival. Served with puri and shrikhand, Undhiyu is a must-have dish on your trip to the state. Other Gujarati snacks like dhokla, khandvi, thepla, handvo, khakhra, fafda, ganthia, etc. are also savored during the festival. Popular sweets consumed include chikki, ladoo and badam patti.
Garba is the folk-dance form of Gujarat. Be it any occasion, the people of Gujarat just can’t miss the chance of doing Garba. When men and children fly kites on terraces, the women of the house indulge in joyful Garba dancing. With Gujarati and Bollywood music playing in the background, it’s a great sight to see every single being engrossed in the Uttarayan celebration. Don’t forget to jiggle a leg or two when you participate in the festival.
The International Kite Festival is one of the biggest festivals of Gujarat, and months before, the preparation for the festival starts with great zest and fervor. For a close glimpse of the Gujarati culture and traditions, you must visit this festival. You can reach it by:
Air – Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad offers excellent facilities. There are regular flights from all the major cities in the country, and direct flights from USA and UK are also available.
Rail – The Ahmedabad railway station is just six kilometers away from the city center. Local modes of transport like buses, taxis and rickshaws are easily available.
Road – The city has well-maintained roads and is linked to all the important cities like Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Udaipur, Gandhinagar and Bhavnagar.