Friday, January 13, 2012

Makar Sankranti: One Emotion- Many Versions

By Jharna Shahani

Cheers to new beginnings! The start of every New Year is associated with new beginnings; “Makar Sankranti” is a festival that holds special meaning with kites soaring high in a symbolic manifestation of hope, goodwill and cheer…..

In India, every festival brings with it oodles of colour, fun, food and a world of hidden messages that are spiritual as well as philosophical. With such meaningful celebrations woven into the traditional and cultural garb that is India, ‘Makar Sankranti’ or as it is more popularly called the ‘kite flying festival’ nourishes socio-cultural sentiments and boosts an unusual design boom engineered in the simple act of kite flying.

Card Kite
Glider Kite
To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom, and the transition of the Sun into the celestial path of Makar Rashi (Zodiac Capricorn) marks the beginning of Sankranti (in Sanskrit meaning transmigration). Called Pongal in Tamilnadu, Magh Bihu in the Assam Valley, Shishur Saenkraat in the Kashmir Valley, Makara Vilaakku Festival in the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, Maghi in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab and Uttarayan in Gujarat and Rajasthan, Makar Sankranti or Sankranti to the rest of India is celebrated on a fixed date -January 14 – every year, since it depends on the position of the sun and not the moon.

Bird Kite
Barbie Kite
Various theories abound: The festival pays obeisance to Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge); is an opportunity to strengthen father-son ties; occasion for thanksgiving; make auspicious beginnings as it also marks the onset of the harvesting season; and pay homage to departed ancestors among its various interpretations. Predominantly, like any other festival, Makar Sankranti also marks the victory of good over evil.

Colourful Twines
Don 2 Kite
Kangana Ranaut Kite
With an Indian festival being incomplete without food and colour, among other regional gourmet specialties, Makar Sankranti is marked by feeding Til Gud ladoos (round sweetmeats made from sesame seeds and jaggery) and chanting set phrases in different languages that all mean – “Eat sweets and speak sweetly”. Since the festival falls in mid winter, food prepared for this festival is such that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy. Keeping the cold weather in mind, in many states the women wear black clothes so that the heat is absorbed and retained to help them keep warm.

Til Gud ladoos (round sweetmeats made from sesame seeds and jaggery)
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Khichri(Sticky Rice Preperation)
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The synonymous event of Kite Flying, which began centuries ago as a symbolic gesture of reaching towards the Sun God, ‘Surya’ has over the years become a rage with young and old alike during Makar Sankranti. Colourful kites that have become an inevitable part of this festival come in myriad styles, designs and themes.  Originally made of special light-weight kite paper and bamboo, rhombus shaped with central spine and a single bow, the design of kites is now a full-grown and innovative enterprise.   The shapes, sizes, materials and basic structure have all changed down the line.

Round Kite
Tiger Kite
Incidentally, the Kite-flying festival is an important event held across various cities of Gujarat in India. The festival draws expert kite-makers and flyers not only from India but also from around the world. The entire day is filled with merry-making, where kites of all shapes and colours soar in the sky, their tails mocking those below, in a gesture of freedom and high spirits. Crowded rooftops, fun-loving rivalry out do each other as several competitions are held at the state, national and international levels. As night falls, illuminated box-shaped kites known as Tukkals add new sparkle and revelry as a fitting end to a spirited day. 

Eagle Kite
Glider Kite
Special mixtures of glue and ground glass coat the twines with which the kites are flown. Experts especially prepare these twines in various hues to match the kites that go from round, glider-shaped, and bird shaped to kites with motifs that depict Bollywood with latest movie posters on them or actors and actresses printed on them; super heroes like Batman and Spiderman; fairy tales, animals, not forgetting pictures of cricketers and famous politicians being printed on the kites.

Shahrukh Khan & Kareena Kapoor Kites
Anna Hazare Kite
With the sky turning into a riot of colours, in an environment replete with enthusiasm and excitement, Makar Sankranti conveys the universal message that reinstates the importance of traditional values as much as it celebrates life and eternal hope.

Batman Kite

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