My 13 year old nephew, Ravi , who studies in Class VIII. visited us during his winter break in December last year. While we were discussing his studies & school schedule etc, he promptly mentioned that will have very few holidays in the first quarter of the new year 2020. He was upset that he will be in school on January 14 writing an exam & cannot bunk school on that day.
I was curious about his remark & asked why did he want a holiday on January 14th. He smirked & then laughed , saying it is the day when men & women of all ages are on the terraces of their houses flying kites all over the country. He began to share memories of his kite flying experiences in the yester years with his parents & friends.
14th January as we all know is celebrated as “Makar Sankranti”, also known as Uttarayan in India. Makar Sankranti is also celebrated as the harvest festival and marks the arrival of spring. The day is synonymous to kite flying too. … The time thus signifies a period of socializing and family get-together, taking care of the cattle, celebrating around bonfires and flying kites. Infact a whole lot of people fly kites almost through the month….& in some parts of our country kite flying competitions are held, esp Gujarat.
Flying kites, preparing traditional sweets (laddoos) with jaggery and sesame seeds and taking holy dip in rivers form an integral part of it, as does meeting with loved ones and exchanging greetings and sweets. Uttarayan, the six-months period between Makar Sankranti and Karka Sankranti (the day that marks the movement of the sun into Karka rashi) marks the northward movement of the earth in the celestial sphere. People continue with their celebrations during Uttarayan as colourful kites adorn the sky. However, much like all other traditions, there is a reason why people fly kites during Makar Sankranti and in the days that follow the festival.
Traditionally, it was believed that winter brought in a lot of germs and caused illness and flu. Thus, a huge number of people would turn up during Makar Sankranti and in the following months to bask in the early morning sun, hoping to get rid of bacteria and also fly kites in the process. The act of flying kites was said to have been initiated to make this act more exciting.
Of course, the symbolism of kites flying up to the heavens during Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan is deeper. Many consider flying kites high up into the sky as a form of thanksgiving to the gods. It is also considered as a signal for their awakening as it is generally believed the gods have been taking rest and sleeping for the last six months, and now it’s time to wake up. The clear, blue sky during Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan also present an ideal scenario to fly kites.
After the discussion with my nephew, speaking to various elders in the family & reading up on the subject, I have been thinking through the lessons that we can learn from Kite Flying rather than just looking at it as fun-
Here are a few profound lessons –
1. It’s difficult to rise ; easy to fall
It requires energy and strength to rise. Special efforts are needed to do make your walk in any walk of live. But to fall down is easy. Greed, misuse of power, wrongful deeds are enough to bring anyone down. In the same way , we also need to put in some extra efforts to reach a higher level. To go with the crowd or to go along the stream is always easy as it does not require any hard work or extra effort.
2. A kite needs favorable winds to go higher
If there is no wind, it’s very difficult to fly a kite. It is difficult to rise up in the sky. Similarly, there is interdependence in our ecosystem ; even we need help and support of others to reach our goals.
3. A string is almost invisible but guides the kite
It’s the string which guides and directs a kite, however it’s almost invisible. Similarly, we are constantly guided and motivated by our guides and mentord from the backstage. They play an indispensable role. Just like a kite cannot fly without the string , even we will find it difficult to achieve our goals without our guides and gurus.
4. A kite may get cut
A kite may get cut by another kite. Similarly, sometimes we may be defeated by someone who is better than us. But it’s not something to be ashamed of. We can always learn and imbibe a new lesson from every difficult situation instead of running away from it.
5. A kite can fly irrespective of its color or type
A kite can fly with same efficiency and reach the same heights irrespective of the color of the kite or of the type of material of which it is made. Similarly, every person can achieve their aims and objectives irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. So, let’s have a broad outlook and not differentiate people on these petty issues. Each one of us is capable of achieving our goals.
6. A kite can go on higher and higher
A kite can go on higher and higher up in the sky. Similarly, we can reach unprecedented heights. All that’s required is dedication, hard work and most importantly persistence to reach our goals.
7. A kite may get struck on trees and poles
After getting cut a kite may get struck on trees or poles. Likewise in life, we may face difficult (not impossible) challenges and get stuck. But we must know that it’s not the end. With a little bit of extra effort & self-belief, we can overcome any adversity.
8. Loosen the string to prevent the kite from getting cut
The string of the kite is left loose so that it may not get cut by another kite. If the string is tight and tense it breaks more easily. Similarly , we need to d-stress ourselves. Stress is a big killer and it prevents us from wholeheartedly enjoying our life and hinders in achieving our goals. So, from a kite we can learn to “let go” in some of the difficult situations in order to avoid getting stressed up.
9. Kites’ success depends on the Kite flyer
Along with the qualities of a kite, the success of a kite also depends on the flyer. In our case, we are the kite and God is the flier. So, in some cases we may give our 100% efforts for a cause but sometimes the final results depend on luck and God. So lets learn to accept it willingly. Some things may happen as destined. But at the same time it also does not mean that we should stop working to reach our goals.
10. A kite may not return back to the person it belongs after getting cut
After getting cut the kite belongs to the person who catches it. It no longer belongs to its previous owner. It’s again ready for a new flight. Similarly after facing a difficult situation we change. We are no more what we used to be. We learn from our mistakes. And finally we are again ready to face new challenges on the path ahead.
In the game of kite flying a loss of kite is just a small event, the flyer is always ready with the second kite and join the game afresh. Even when you cut a kite , the joy is for a moment, there is always the next kite waiting for you to attack. Life is a game worth enjoying only when we can be happy in all events, and that is truly the art of kite flying -the real art of living.
I promised my nephew that I will write an article on this topic & share with him before January 14, 2020 & here it is. While he will enjoy the sport & have fun, there’s food for thought for him & all of us!
Happy Makar Shankranti and Uttarayan!