Uttarayan in Ahmedabad

#1 Jan 17th, 2016, 18:49
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#1
UIttarayan is a festival to celebrate the northwards movement of the sun ( said to be a positive period) and this period of approximately 6 months starts on the summer solstice, January 14th. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttarayana)

Uttarayan in Ahmedabad is special since the festival is celebrated by kite flying. While kites being flown on Uttarayan may not be unique to Ahmedabad, what makes it different is the sheer enormity of the celebration, the participation, the competition, the food, the atmosphere, the joie de vivre ( english words have failed me and hence switched over to French- i trust you get the message)

We decided to go to the old city on vasi uttarayan ( vasi means stale and vasi uttarayan is the day after uttarayan) Ahmedabad is broadly divided into two areas bisected by the river Sabarmati. The east area which (predominantly) consists of the old (walled) city and the west which is the new areas. Kite flying is a delight in the old city, where hundred of thousands of people descend, nay ascend to the rooftops and fly kites with the objective of cutting the string of a neighbouring kite flyer.

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As can be expected, there is a competitive air, in addition to the festive atmosphere and success are heralded by a piercing victory cry -loud and fierce enough to give Tarzan, or for that matter, the Vikings an inferiority complex). The losers, mutter about the poor quality of the thread, the bad kite design, or anything and everything relevant or irrelevant, including what they had for breakfast; except of course their kite flying skills.

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The lung power exhibited is inversely proportional to the size and weight of the bellower. Please excuse my tardiness for not attaching an audio file so that such calls could be documented for future study.

The losers, as explained before have a quick "defeat analysis session" and once they have arrived at the culprit (in this case a sad song that was being played through the music systems deployed in the terrace); they quickly assemble another kite, put in a peppy number, and make a solemn vow not to rest until their "insult" has been avenged.

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The supporters are quite feudal in nature and support the victory of who ever is flying the kite from the terrace they are on, never mind if they don't know him or her from Adam (or Eve). Their job is to make all kinds of noises once the victor has finished his/her victory cry, the louder the better, and make faces and gestures at the losing party. At times, and i put this down to bad training and the absence of an orientation programme, the supporters do this mechanically and when in fact the neighbouring terrace kite flyer has cut their terrace kite - inviting dirty looks from the vanquished. "We need to do something about this auto response syndrome - a loser-whose-kite-had-just-been-cut remarked. Why are they here and who invited them?"
This happens when the supporters are not paying attention and are amusing themselves by taking selfies:
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After a successful stint of supporting, and when your allegiance is beyond doubt, one gets promoted to the critical role of the firki catcher. This is an important role and one has to ensure that the thread is given immediately on demand, at the speed desired, without knots or jumbles (whats the word?), and remains always stationed at precisely 14.23 degrees to the left of the flyer ( if he is a right hand flyer) and precisely 2 feet away. This becomes difficult since the flyer is moving around always, trying to jostle his kite in a winning position. As and when the flyer has manoeuvred his kite in the position desired, he (she) commences their cutting approach, in which the thread is pulled quite fast, making a messy pile on the floor- it is here that a distinguished firki catcher gets an opportunity to prove his mettle. She (he) would have to wind the thread as it comes cascading down, without it making a messy jumble ( whats the word??); without - and this is important - taking her eyes off the battle.
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In this case, if you observe closely, the kite has just been cut ( the thread has become slack) and though the firki catcher has followed all the rules, she would come in for a drubbing. " You did not allow the thread to come as fast as i wanted at the critical moment" - thereby once again proving that the Boss is always right.

A skewed win - lose ratio normally demands a rethink in the war strategy and all hands (except the low rank supporters) are involved in this complex exercise.

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(to be continued.. reached the limit of attaching 10 photos )
#2 Jan 17th, 2016, 19:02
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#2
Brilliant!


Your report reminded me of my childhood/teen days. Thanks for describing the emotions of kite flyers & supporters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Earthian View Post " You did not allow the thread to come as fast as i wanted at the critical moment"
This is exactly what I used to say when my kite gets cut.
#3 Jan 17th, 2016, 19:20
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Thanks for sharing this Murli. I've heard about Sakraat of ahmedabad from some relatives. We always teased each other as to which city does it better. Not very different from Jaipur as far as i can tell. If I'm in Jaipur that day, then I can never leave the house though I'm told that in the old city here, it's a bit denser.

The mess in manjha is called 'guttham-guttha' here (literally a bad knot). I like the management analysis you've applied!

Some very similar things
- Girls dress to the nines. Men ogle. This time of the year is very good for that as everyone's on the roof.
- If you're a champion flyer, you will get up shortly after sunrise and wont come back till past sundown. Lunch, snacks, etc are kept ready in casseroles.
- You need a charkhi (that's what firki is called here) holder only if you're not a real champion. Real champions are able to hold the kite from one hand and the charkhi in the other.
#4 Jan 17th, 2016, 19:35
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#4
@vaibhav_arora
Thank for the word. We call it a "Guuch" or another universal word "locha"
The definition of champion flyer applies here too.
#5 Jan 17th, 2016, 20:42
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I was kicking myself for not taking a tripod. Over the next few hours i would have the occasion to lament frequently at my foolishness. Here is a hand held video of the scene,the music, the war cries:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_X1...ature=youtu.be

Hope it gets uploaded. First time.(tried again)
To continue:
The valour and prowess of the flyer is shown by the cuts he has on his fingers ( due to the ground glass coated thread-called manjha) and the number of bandages he sports.

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It is also important to sport a i-don't-care grin as it gets the "oohs" and "aahs" of the girls you want to impress. ( What is with girls and their kink for all things gory?)

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The service providers had to ensure that the warriors were adequately provided for sustenance.
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Sometimes, in the heat of battle, there is no time to take a leisurely lunch break- a sweetmeat made of jaggery and peanuts ( and til) does the needful, giving instant energy to our young warriors.
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The cheerleaders feel that they too have earned it after all that cheering:

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The cheer leaders practice their moves:

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(to be continued)
#6 Jan 17th, 2016, 21:28
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#6
The cheerleaders are again at their favourite past time.
Difficult to get reliable help these days!

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The management, is fed up and debate the issue:
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They call the workers for a meeting and read them the riot act. However, the CLs hve formed a union and it is ignore the management and don't even look at them strategy:
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There is a compromise. There is a particular CL, whose indigo coloured glasses has been identified as the culprit for the dismal performance. Remove them and get back to work. But of course, the CL would not obey, even though they know that it is in the overall interests of the company. (pun intended)

In the meanwhile, the opposition has been making inroads into their territory:

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New weapons are being contemplated:
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to be continued...
#7 Jan 18th, 2016, 16:29
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It is awesome to see the concentration:

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Some background:
As mentioned before we had gone to the old city, where the house are densely packed, in areas called pols. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_(housing)
The streets, as expected, are very narrow and often, humans, vehicles, cows battle for space.

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The sun was setting, but we were a long way from packing up yet:

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With the setting sun, the sky comes alive with fireworks and tukkals (lanterns with a candle in them). These lanterns (called Chinese lanterns , since they are imported from China) are actually banned since they are a fire hazard, but i could see thousands in the sky that evening:

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Here are some photographs on the launching of these lanterns:
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I have never seen the sky lit up thus. It was a beautiful sight, though dangerous. In addition to these lanterns there were fireworks being let off from the terraces.
Last edited by Earthian; Jan 18th, 2016 at 18:08..
#8 Jan 18th, 2016, 16:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earthian View Post
With the setting sun, the sky comes alive with fireworks and tukkals (lanterns with a candle in them). These lanterns (called Chinese lanterns , since they are imported from China) are actually banned since they are a fire hazard, but i could see thousands in the sky that evening:.
I posted a video of the lanterns here in Jaipur sky on the Sankranti thread.

The lanterns with candles inside are called kandeel.

Tukkal is a specific kind of fighter kite that's rarely seen outside the Punjab. It's quite heavy and once a Tukkal shows up, other kites (in its neighborhood) will scatter away as it's a known fact that the tukkal will always win a pench (contest).

lovely sunset photos!
#9 Jan 18th, 2016, 18:14
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@vaibhav_arora
In gujarat, tukkal is the lantern. Earlier, these lanterns were attached to the thread, and it required a powerful kite to carry them.
Some info from kiteplans.org

"The tukkal is common to Pakistan and northwestern India and is considered an expert's fighter. Since it is burdened by three bows and is less aerodynamic, the single bowed kites are more popular for competitive fliers in the U.S. As a non-competitive flier, I enjoy the birdlike outline and unique design.

The name Tukkal means "lantern" because this kite's shape originated from hard-pulling kites used to lift lanterns. As a consequence, these big, flat fighters pull very strongly which gives them an advantage for line-cutting in a pench, or tangle, with other kites, since a heavier and more taut manjha, or cutting line, is flown. Although less nimble than smaller single-bowed kites, in an expert's hands this is a formidable opponent. Some fliers attach rupee notes to kite as a way of advertising their prowess and confidence."
#10 Jan 18th, 2016, 18:29
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So the gujjus have conflated the name of the kite with the name of what the kite lifted up , good for them.... anyways, I wasn't referring to any website to write all this up. I wrote what i know and have seen since childhood here in the North.
#11 Jan 18th, 2016, 21:43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post So the gujjus have conflated the name of the kite with the name of what the kite lifted up , good for them.... anyways, I wasn't referring to any website to write all this up. I wrote what i know and have seen since childhood here in the North.
Case of pot calling the kettle black.
#12 Jan 19th, 2016, 12:03
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As mentioned previously, there were fireworks being let off too:
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Then it was time to take leave of our gracious hosts and walk down a short distance to Manek Chouk, the night food bazaar. see: https://en.wikipedia...owk_(Ahmedabad)

It seems every one who had come to the old city had the same idea that night. There was hardly space to move, leave alone sit down and have a leisurely meal.
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We managed to get some pav bhaji and i managed to get some shots. There is a short video of the art of cutting onions, which can be seen here:
Thus ended our vasi uttrayan day. Would love to receive comments and also set the ball rolling to hear about such festivals in other states of India.

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