Makar Sankranti is the day when, according to Hindu astrology, the sun begins its ascent into the northern hemisphere. This signals the end of winter and the beginning of increasingly longer days. The festival is marked by different traditions throughout the country, including ritual bathing, an exchange of sweets, and the well-loved Kite Festival. Kite-flying is especially popular in Gujarat, the state to the north of Maharashtra where Mumbai is located. Last week we visited my husband’s parents in Ahmedabad, a major city in Gujarat, and witnessed kids preparing for the festival. Brightly colored paper kites dot the sky as children compete to cut their neighbors’ kites with strings covered in powdered glass.
One evening as the sun was setting I stepped out onto the balcony to enjoy the cool winter breeze. From the rooftop below I heard the shouts of boys cheering their friend who was engaged in good-natured kite combat with a boy on a nearby terrace. The kites swooped and circled as both boys struggled to claim the other’s kite. After a minute of this intense maneuvering the purple kite emerged victorious, freeing the brown kite from its earthly tether. The brown kite floated gently over the rooftops as its owner hurriedly attached another paper kite to his string. Shouts and cheers of victory were replaced by concentration as the other boys readied for another battle.