Uttarayan: International Kite Festival

Both Traditional and Unique Designs Take to the Skies at the International Kite Festival

This month marks the 35th anniversary of the International Kite Festival. Since 1989, the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India has hosted the International Kite Festival as part of the official celebration of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. This festival brings master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to demonstrate their unique creations of small, big, traditional, and unusual kites.

Many cities in Gujarat hold their own kite festivals, but the international one is held in Ahmedabad, which is the kite capital of the state. The Ahmedabad festival is open to all countries.

Kite-Making Traditions from Around the World

Certain countries have specific types of kites that they are known for:

  • Malaysia - wau-balang kites (unique floral designs)
  • Indonesia - llayang-llayang kites (long, skinny ribbons)
  • Japan - Rokkaku fighting kites (with faces of warriors) 
  • Italy - sculptural kites (huge geometric shapes)
  • China - flying dragon kites (designed after dragon dance costumes)


About Makar Sankranti

The kite festival is called Makar Sankranti (Capricorn Festival) or Uttarayan (Sun Festival). It is held right after winter solstice (when winter begins turning to spring/summer) in the Hindu calendar, and honors the sun god, Surya. The whole state shuts down for the day and everyone goes to rooftops and roadsides to fly kites and compete with their neighbors.

The main competition involves battling nearby kite flyers, by cutting their strings and bringing their kites down. People fly kites of all different shapes and sizes, usually made by professional kite-makers who create masterpieces from springy bamboo and special kite-paper. The kites are attached to a large firkin (spool) of manja, special kite-string coated with a mixture of glue and glass for literally cutting the strings of rival kites!

Whole families gather on rooftops and eat special foods like laddu (sweet sesame balls), undhiyu (vegetable casserole) or surti jamun (cream cake). At night, kite fighters send up bright white kites that can be seen in the dark, and skilled flyers send up tukkals (paper lanterns) with long strings that lead back down to the rooftop. And, of course, there are fireworks!

From early morning to late at night, Uttarayan provides many fun, beautiful, and memorable sights! Happy Uttarayan and Makar Sankranti!

For more information, check out this list of picture books about kites from the HCPL catalog!

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International Kite Festival 2024 - Gujarati, India (TCGL)

The International Kite Festival of India - National Geographic (YouTube)