Come January 14 and entire Ahmedabad, and elsewhere in Gujarat, is on the terraces to fly kites. While precise details of how the festival became popular are still unknown, experts have their own findings of this extremely popular festival in the state.Uttarayan, or Makarsankranti, means that flying kites will be the only activity for most of the Gujaratis. It also involves kite competitions and cherishing Úndhiyu’, Jalebi, chiki and fruits like sugarcane and Indian plums. Scientific relevance of ‘Makarsankranti’ is that sun rays fall perpendicular on ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ in the southern hemisphere, indicating the onset of hotter days in the northern hemisphere.Noted author Madhav Ramanuj explained that Aryans came to from colder countries and settled in India. For them, northward journey of the sun would mean relief from biting cold. While Aryan Invasion Theory or Aryan Migration theory is now questioned, the explanation can also be attributed to traders or other invaders who came from Central Asia and settled in India. Joravarsinh Jadav, managing trustee of Gujarat Lokkala Foundation, says that evidence of kites have been found from the days of Indus Valley Civilisation. One of the synonyms of ‘the sun’ is ‘Patang’, meaning a kite. So, it is also a kind of worship of the sun, said Jadav. Later, many rulers, including that of the Mughals, patronized kite flying.City-based historian Rizwan Kadri attributes the first mention of festival of kite flying to the memoirs of Social Reformers Karsandas Mulji, who was on a journey in 1857 from Mumbai to Deesa in north Gujarat and, en route, he stayed in Surat. “Coincidentally, it was Makarsankranti. He said, that people, including women and children, flew kites. Women also collected kites once they saw them falling after being cut. In the evening, people also threw stones at each other and dispersed,” said Kadri. The memoirs are published in ‘Buddhiprakash’.City is also home to a ‘Kite Museum’ where the historical account of kites has been displayed. Bhanubhai Shah (85), founder of the museum told DNA that there is no account of linking Makarsankranti with flying kites or any other customs associated with it. Shah traces the origin of kites to second century BC in China, where kites were used to measure distance or sending vital signals or even frighten enemy at night during a war. According to museum records, kites came to India from China via Japan. The earliest mention of kites is by Marathi poet Namdeo (1270-1350 AD).Regarding culinary customs associated with flying kites, Shah says since almost everyone flies kites, they are on the terrace for the whole day. Winter is associated with green vegetables and, so, Undhiyu might have become popular in vogue. Sesame and jaggery are very nutritious in winter and so are chikis.

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Gujarat’s favourite festival, but historians unsure of origins of kite flying