Makar Sankranti, a festival dedicated to the sun god, is one of the most ancient Hindu festivals celebrated across India with much fanfare. The festival marks the beginning of the auspicious period of Uttarayan.
People fly kites and prepare traditional sweets like gazak for this festival that marks the arrival of spring. In different parts of the country, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different ways. In some areas, people exchange sweets and greetings, while others take holy dip in the river.
Kite flying is an intrinsic part of Makar Sankranti celebrations. Colourful kites adorn the sky from the morning of Makar Sankranti.
This day also marks the end of winter and celebrates the harvest of the Rabi crop. According to some beliefs, the tradition of kite flying on Makar Sankranti is being carried out so that people are exposed to the sun rays. Sunning is believed to get rid of the skin infections and illnesses associated with winter.
The exposure to initial rays of the sun is considered beneficial to health as it is a good source of Vitamin D.
Besides, people also believe that kite flying is a way of thanking the gods, as it is considered that gods awake from their sleep on Makar Sankranti after a period of six months.
Kite flying can be witnessed across different parts of the country, but it is mostly done with great enthusiasm in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Months before Makar Sankranti, people start making kites at their homes in Gujarat. The event is celebrated in Gujarat as the International Kite Festival. Ahmedabad has been hosting the International Kite Festival since 1989. Tourists from across India and other countries flock to Gujarat for this joyous occasion.
As kite fighting involves the use of extremely sharp manjha on the strings, there is a high chance that you may cut yourself. Before attempting to fly a kite yourself, ask for help from a friend or tour guide in the know. You can also consider wearing a glove or bandaging your fingers before-hand to avoid any accidents. Keep in mind that the crowded markets during Uttarayan are home to many a pickpocket. Be extremely careful of your belongings and make sure not to leave them behind anywhere. Shopkeepers also tend to hike their rates for tourists so it helps to have a localised whom you can trust. Lastly, drink mineral water instead of tap water to prevent any problems with your stomach.