When was the first time word ‘Patang’ mentioned in India? Who introduced kites to entire Europe? Who were the first to use kites as military banners?
Come Uttarayan and we begin to indulge in the kite-flying spree, at least, a month before. Hardly do we know the facts and history behind this festival, which is celebrated according to Gregorian calendar and not by the Hindu almanac.
Behind every festival, there are some facts and fiction; historical studies reveal many unknown facts and information about Uttarayan like: which was the first country to see kites; what was the primary purpose of flying kites. Below, we have listed some interesting facts for you.
27 Interesting Kites and Makar Sankranti Facts:
1)The Chinese were the first people to see kites.
2) The first kite was created by Kunghshu P’an, a Chinese, who gave a bird shape and flew the kite in the sky for three consecutive days around 478-392 BC; Mo Zi was another Chinese who spent three years to make a kite from wood. It was like a hawk in shape.
3) For the military purpose, General Han Xin first used the kite to measure the distance between his army and the palace wall; general wanted to dig a tunnel for quick military actions around 196 BC.
4) In the 1st Century AD, the Koreans and the Japanese used to enjoy kite flying; then the practice of flying kite entered the Roman Empire.
5) The Romans used kites as military banners in 105 AD.
6) China started a new tradition by flying kites on the ninth day of every month; it was a popular game in China from 960 to 1126. The Chinese believed that by this activity, they could kick out devils from the borders of China.
7) European explorer Marco Polo introduced kites to Europe in 1295; Marco Polo was an Italian traveler, who had travelled across China extensively.
8) Kite flying had a literary connection too; the word ‘Patang’ (kite) was first used in Indian literature by Manzat in his poetry ‘Madhumati’ in 1542.
9) In Maharashtra, poets like Eknath and Tukaram mentioned ‘kite’ in their treatise; kite was referred to as ‘vavdi’ in their poems.
10) Kite flying was immensely popular in Japan between 1558 and 1568; people used to celebrate kite flying festival enthusiastically.
11) Kites were used to measure temperature. Surprised? Two Scottish weather experts, Alexander Wilson and Thomas Melville, used kites to fly thermometers at the height of 3000 feet to check differences of the temperature at various altitudes.
12) One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, had once flown kite to collect the electricity produced from storm clouds.
13) Japan created the largest kite in 1901; it was a 1050-kig kite with the size of 18m square. It took 215 people to fly it.
14) Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of telephone, invented a tetrahedral kite in Washington DC in 1904. Kite was also instrumental in capturing pictures of demolition in San Francisco caused by an earthquake in 1906.
15) Kite was also used during the First World War by countries like France, Britain, Russia, Italy and others; it was primarily used for positions of enemy armies and signaling.
16) A German had flown a series of kites at the altitude of 31,995 feet in 1919.
17) Robert M. Ingraham of New Mexico founded ‘The American Kitefliers Association’ in 1964.
18) Shingo Modegi and other fourteen members founded ‘The Japan Kite Association’ in Japan in 1969.
19) 1976 saw the foundation of The Australian Kite Association.
20) Students of Inami Junior High School set a world record by flying a train of 15,585 kites in 1998.
21) Richard Synergy set a New Single Kite Altitude Record by flying kite at 13,609 feet in 2000.
22) On January 14, sun enters Makar rashi (Capricorn, according to zodiac sign), and, therefore, it is called Makar Sankranti – Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti mean transition).
23) Makar Sankranti is the spring equinox in India as a day is as long as a night on this date.
24) Across the globe, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with much vigour and vitality. The same festival is celebrated with different names like Lohri, Pongal, Maghi Bihu, Kichdi, Poush Parbon, Songkran, and Pi Ma Laos.
25) People kick-start pilgrimages on Makar Sankranti; in India, the festival marks the beginning of the Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh, Gangasagar in West Bengal and Sabarimala in Kerala.
26) Indians worship Sun as the God of Energy (Urja) and therefore, they offer prayers to Surya and take holy bath in the sacred waters of the Ganges. According to Hindu belief, Surya visits his son, Shani on this day and forget the differences between them.
27) There is a scientific reason for flying kites on Makar Sankranti. For the last many decades, people fly kites in the early hours of the day, when sun rays are not harsh. The morning sun rays provide necessary vitamin to our skin and body. Cold winter brings a lot of ailments; some harmful bacteria become active during winter. According to Hindu belief, sunbath can remove that negative impact of infection. The medical treatment was given in the name of fun activity, so people don’t even realize that they were given a healthy dose of sunbath.
Uttarayan Celebrations in Gujarat
For Gujarati’s, Uttarayan is a two-day festival to fly kites and relish delectable food items. Preparations began a few days ago; women of Gujarati households prepare sweets and snacks like til and gud chikki, and mamra (puffed rice) ladoo, chavanu, and more. On the day of Uttarayan, families gorge on Undhiyu and Jalebi, and Khichdo.
Apart from food stuff, Gujarati’s involve themselves in number of activities. Here is a list of activities our Gujjus love to do during the festival.
DJ Wale babu.
A DJ party on a flat roof is a signature of Amdavadi Uttarayan.
Ladies cook Undhiyu at home.
Friends and Relatives..be my guest
Celebrations are incomplete without friends and relatives at home; they are invited days before Uttarayan.
Kaunu aapki firki le raha hai?
This one is a problem people facing every year. ‘Tu meri firki pakdega?’ This one is a real challenge for people to convince somebody to hold firki.
Healing touch of band-aids.
Cut your fingers and thumbs by a sharp thread? Where are band aids? People keep their first-aid box handy on the eve of Uttarayan.
Neighbor is Enemy
For two days, your neighbors are not friends, they are your frenemies. People tangle thread with neighbour’s thread to cut it.
Flirting on terrace
The flat roof becomes rendezvous for lovers to exchange some coded messages. Binoculars bring some beautiful faces closer, and smartphones become instrumental in fixing a date.
Gossip clubs on flat roof
For ladies, flat roof is their new gossip club. The latest elopements, the hottest romance, and the bitterest contention in society – somebody’s reputation is flying out of the window.
Make Some Noise
Whether you have cut somebody’s thread or your thread is cut by somebody, blow vuvuzelas at full blast. Make some noise guys; for two days, silence is exiled from the city!
When people light up lanterns and release them in the air, entire skyline becomes photogenic. But this time, you may not get those cheaper Chinese lanterns as the government of India has banned those videshi gubbare.
When sun goes down, people revel into some dance masti. And by dance, Gujaratis mean only Garba. Gujaratis nowadays love to emulate the style of Garba queen Daya Bhabhi from Tarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashma.
The sky is lit up with firecrackers. People fire crackers and bid farewell to Uttarayan.
Dinner on flat roof
It’s so much fun to have dinner with your friends and family on the flat roof. After an energetic day, it’s time to down some calories!
A Short Film on Uttarayan
How do you celebrate Uttarayan with your loved ones? Share your ideas with us!