Uttarayan / Makar Sankranti
Kite festival of
Originally, this was a festival linked to the agrarian community, who used the kite flying to predict the weather for planting spring crops. Kites were flown to determine the prevailing wind / weather conditions. Farmers used their extensive experience to determine the type of crops that would do well under the prevailing weather conditions.
Now, kite flying has more to do with competition than crops. Kites of all shapes and colours dance in the sky during January every year. In Gujarat, and many other Northern states, kite flyers take great pride in "cutting" the kites of other flyers. The strings used to fly the kites are coated with powdered glass to make it easier to "cut" the opponents kites.
Uttarayan is also associated with Bhishma, grandsire and hero of the Mahabharat war. The grandsire was mortally wounded in the great battle, but, through his yogic abilities, managed to delay the moment of death till the Sun entered the constellation of Capricorn. He wished his soul to journey back to the regions of the Vasus, beyond the constellation of Capricorn.
In the south, the festival is celebrated as Pongal. It is dedicated to the Sun and gods of nature that bring good harvests. Rice, spiced and sweetened with cane sugar (gaud) is cooked in the courtyard and the pot is allowed to "boil over". Family members visit each other and presents are exchanged.
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