Kite, an ordinary four letter word, yet holds an extraordinary wealth of meaning. Soaring in the sky, dancing to the whims of the flyer, kites have enthused the young and the old down the ages. And it's that time of the year once more, when the skies of Gujarat beckon kite enthusiasts from across the country and abroad. As kids, lovingly holding aloft their simple kites, rubbed shoulders with professionals displaying huge and fancy contraptions, there was an air of enthusiasm on the banks of Sabarmati.

The annual gala International Kite Festival, hosted by Ahmedabad since 1989 to mark Uttarayan, or Winter Solstice, got underway this year on 8 January with much festivities. Though the "windless" day proved to be a damper for the assembled contestants, the owners of exotic and colourful kites in all sizes and shapes could barely be contained. Matching the models of the international participants with their fervour, some of the Indian kite lovers took to the skies.

Be it a chain of 28 little kites, a three-foot dragon-sized kite or those showcasing different rangoli designs, the blue sky was soon a rainbow of colours. Indians were also seen flaunting their unique styles and design of kites. The Rajasthani team illustrated with their theme of "Beti Bachao Beti Padhao" while the team from Kerala unfolded the meaning of their culture through their kites. A parade of kites sporting Hindu deities ~ Ganesha and Hanuman among others ~ were the show-stoppers of the opening day.

Gala inaugural

Gaiety and cheer marked the start of the International Kite Festival as state Governor Om Prakash Kohli inaugurated the event at the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad. As many as 2,000 students from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-run schools performed Suryanamaskar.

Kohli said no other state observed Makarsakranti in an overwhelming way as in Gujarat. Stating that "imagination is the highest kite one can fly", the Governor asked everybody to think greater and better in the days to come.

Chief Minister Vijaybhai Rupani called upon the people to join hands to ensure the "kite of the improvement" of the state achieved an extreme stature in the days to come. Tourism Minister Ganpat Singh Vasav said the tourism segment had achieved an industry status with a steady increase in the stream of visitors. The kite business alone offered work to upwards of one lakh individuals, he added.

Traversing sun

The Kite Festival is denoted to mark Uttarayan, or Winter Solstice. The word Uttarayan originates from two different Sanskrit words ~ "uttara" meaning North and "ayana" meaning movement, thereby indicating the movement of Earth on the celestial sphere. This festival denotes the progressive end of the winter season and the start of summer. To agriculturists and farmers, it is a propitious sign, which demonstrates the beginning of the harvest season. This day is thought to be one of the most essential days of the collect (harvest) season in the nation. Known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Bihu in Assam, Maghi in Punjab and Haryana, the essence of this festival is the same throughout the country.

In Gujarat, this gala event is prevalently celebrated through kite flying. The state turns into an assembling centre months before the celebration, giving support to the general financial and socio-economic status. Each year, this mega festival, organised by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited, gets bigger and better.

With more than 100 international participants from 32 countries such as Argentina, Australia, France, Brazil, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Estonia, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Netherlands, New-Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, the US, Vietnam, along with around 50 participants from 10 states in the country, this festival is this year bigger than ever before.

One of the most captivating segments of this revelry was to see so many different and beautiful kites at one platform. Just to witness the amount of dedication and hardwork these enthusiasts had put in to make a single kite was enough to mesmerize one's soul. Though the competition was tough to certify the most attractive kite, but the ones that were huge in size caught everyone's eyes in a flash of a second.

The sky above was decorated with plethora of kites. Be it Italy's photo collage of generations, Colombia's representation of animals or Argentina's caricatures of their own delegates, the collection above was massive. But then, the design, craft, money and time involved in making one kite was anything but easy go.

According to a delegate from the Australian team, "I came up with the idea of a dancing alien kite last year. It took me 5-6 months just to prepare this single kite. It was so huge that my entire family helped me set up my own 'alien' in the sky." The Israeli team was also not far behind. "The design of our kites is based on our mythological stories. One of our kites represents our Lord of Power and another depicts the Lord of Devil. For more than eight months we've worked on these kites."

To wrap up, the International Kite Festival 2017 embraced the souls and soul mates of kites with open arms and a bigger heart.