Kite Flying, Undhiyu and Uttarayan

Kite Flying in Ahmedabad

I never flew kites as a child and still cant do it. In fact the mechanics of it simply elude my brain. But after moving to Ahmedabad, one of my favorite memories is kite flying during Uttarayan.

Uttarayan is the Gujarati festival celebrated on Jan 14, which basically marks the change in the sun’s direction (the beginning of summer). It is somewhat similar to Pongal and Makar Sankranti,which is celebrated in other parts of India.

I have always enjoyed these festivals for its resonance with nature. There seems to be a very direct link as to why the day is celebrated in a certain way, which is refreshing considering so many other festivals get subsumed in rituals and prayers we never understand.

And to me kite flying symbolizes so much of the joy and freedom of the approaching summer.
I have still not managed to fly a kite. I did visit the Kite festival this year. I am hoping as my daughter grows up, she will introduce me to the delight of kite flying.

It also heralds the making of Undhiyu, the amazing Gujarati delicacy, traditionally cooked during Uttarayan.

There is an interesting conversation I had with a lady here regarding the making of Undhiyu. It had been two years since I settled in Ahmedabad, and I was yet to be invited to a Gujarati home to taste Undhiyu. I had to be content with Undhiyu from the shop. I mentioned this to her, with the hope of cadging an invitation to her home. She replied that in all their homes, they never cooked Undhiyu but bought it from outside, because the women were too busy on the roof flying kites to engage in chores like cooking.

While the foodie in me was disappointed with this comment, I was later having this discussion with a friend, where we remarked on the ease with which this lady has moved away from what is considered her ‘traditional duty’, which is to make savories, and chosen to do what she enjoys. Festivals can be fun, but frequently the burden of festivals in India is borne by the women, who have to make all the food to feed family and friends. If what she said is indeed true, and many women have prioritized kites over the cooking, then kite flying to me symbolizes so much more than simply the freedom of approaching summer.

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2 thoughts on “Kite Flying, Undhiyu and Uttarayan

  1. josna says:

    Really enjoyed this post, Divya, not only because I too love the idea of kite-flying but have never managed to get the hang of it; and prefer a celebration closely linked to Nature over one that seems to consist of empty ritual; and feel both disappointed and approving that the women of the house should enjoy Uttarayan like everybody else rather than stay in the hot kitchen preparing the special holiday foods; but also because a few years ago my son arrived in Ahmedabad to study there for a season right at Uttarayan, and got caught up in filming the kite festival. So I have another reason to have a personal affection for it. Have you seen Patang, by director Prashant Bhargava? In case you haven’t, you might enjoy it. Here’s a link to its trailer: http://www.patang.tv

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