When I was a child, my weekends were dedicated to flying kites. My friends and I would hike up a nearby hillock early in the morning, bracing the chilly winds. The weather rarely dampened our spirits; if anything, it made us want to climb faster, reach the top, and soak in the warmth of the morning sun, whose rays would slowly light up the town below. Mid-January, it looked its colourful best, with kites of various shapes, sizes and hues dotting the clear blue skies. It was also when we celebrated the harvest festival of Makara Sankranti.
Besides marking the time when farmers reap their crops, Sankranti represents the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn. As it follows the movement of sun, Sankranti falls on the same day of every year, as per the Gregorian calendar. It is celebrated on 14 January, across India, and it goes by different names in different regions–Makara Sankranti in Karnataka, Lohri in Punjab, Sakraat in Bihar and Jharkhand, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, and Uttarayan in Gujarat.
Like the names, the festivities too differ across the country. During Makara Sankranti in Karnataka, people distribute a mixture of jaggery, sesame seeds and peanuts. Punjabis celebrate Lohri by dancing around a bonfire. During Sakraat, people of Bihar and Jharkhand prepare a special dish called Tilgud made of sesame seeds and jaggery.
No matter what challenges come our way, the kites herald the need to start afresh and find the strength to keep going. Kites symbolise this resilience and motivate us to keep aiming for the sky.