I was 10 years old, on a family trip to India, when I first learned about Kite Day. Imagine, a holiday just for flying kites. Everyone was out on their rooftops flinging thinner-than-paper-thin kites into the air. The sky was littered with pastel diamonds, bobbing in the breeze. It was a day of simple joy, enjoying the mild Indian winter, out in the sunshine with family and friends, flying – and cutting – kites.
The festivities relate to Makara Sankaranti, or the transition of the Sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn) and takes place around 21 days after the tropical winter solstice (between December 20th and 23rd) that marks the starting of Uttarayana, which means northward journey of the Sun, according to Gunatit Jyot. It marks the start of harvest season and is generally considered a good time to begin a new endeavor – like perhaps a trip to Gujarat!
I wasn’t so fortunate in actually flying the kites. Despite able assists from my cousins who launched the patangs in air for me, my line-tugging skills only resulted in the kites’ fall to earth. So, I sat back, took pictures and enjoyed watching them fly their kites so high as to be mere specks of color in the sky. I cheered along when they dueled with another kite, each player furiously tugging the string to be the first to cut off the other. Eventually the cry of “lapet!” would ring in the air, signaling victory and we would watch the colored paper, now deflated, slowly drift back down to earth.
Because Uttarayan is a holiday on the solar calendar – unlike the rest of our auspicious days which fall on the lunar calendar – Kite Day happens each year on January 14, fixed. So, why do we fly kites to mark this day? Gunatit Jyot suggests: “The act stands as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved God, the one who represents the best.”