If Diwali is a festival of lights then flying kites are signature symbol of Makar Sakranti. In face of fatalities caused due to kite flying, it is important to understand that festivals are not about personal joy but collective joy for the society. It is high time we look for balances between our festivals and social responsibilities.

Winter chill continues in northern parts of India but weather is all set to change with long days, peaceful mornings, relaxing sun, early spring days, and hence better working conditions. Traditionally, Hindu community celebrate this occasion as a festival, known as Makar Sakranti, all across India though with differing names. Tamil Hindus celebrate the occasion as Pongal, while Assamese people happen to call it as Magh Bihu and still more names in other parts of the country.

If Diwali is a festival of lights and Holi a festival of colours then flying kites, high in the skies, are signature symbol of Makar Sakranti. Kites of almost all colours fill up the blue sky in the morning on festival day and this colourful scenario lasts for whole day with delicious sessions of traditional sweets prepared from sesame and jaggery. People visit each other as part of social gatherings and feasts are also organised.

This festival of kites is dedicated to ‘The Sun God’. A day that marks the arrival of season of spring and crop harvesting in the country, going by the popular belief, people come out in numbers early in the morning for a decent exposure to sun rays that would, eventually, eliminate all contaminations and flues associated with winters and cold weather. In Hindu mythology, six months starting from Makar Sakranti are considered to be a period for which gods are awake after a six month long slumber. Kites high up into the sky represent a kind of gratitude towards all powerful god and further hope for a happier harvest season and life as a whole.  

The sesame and jaggery made sweets are good for health in cold and dry conditions, as oily sesame seeds help in moisturizing skin and keeping the body warm. Colourful kites covering the sky and competitions on the rooftop to entangle and severe one another’s strings give a sense of excitement and joy, and a feel of content. Over the years, traditions have changed in a process of evolution and kite flying has become a major idea of festival. It is a treat to watch the skies of big cities of Northern India such as Ahmadabad, Jaipur, Surat and Delhi and so on, on festival day.

At the outset, kite flying seems to be a completely harmless sport but things have gotten out of hands— even to the extent of life termination— over the years, as sport took more a kind of rivalry turn. People prefer to use tougher, but extremely dangerous, synthetic strings for kite flying known as Chinese Manjha. These strings are coated with glass or other metal powder to beat rival flyers in sport, and suddenly a beautiful & joyous sport reaches to extent of clamming innocent lives. Many incidents involving serious fatalities, and even death, to bikers and other people have taken place due to slender strings used to fly kites.

Human injuries often catch everyone’s attention while bigger sufferings of other living beings on the planet are often ignored. Birds, the true champions of sky, often found themselves at loggerheads with strings of our kites, and as expected bear the brunt of an activity that gave us some moments of joy. As the weather changes, more birds migrate through sky, and over the years, various studies have shown that a couple of thousands of birds are affected, brutalised and killed due to synthetic strings. Even kites stuck in trees harm the birds residing in their nests for, sometimes, it entangles with so called high quality strings.

Government has taken many steps from banning the sale to raiding the points of manufacturing to filing complaints for every fatality caused by kite flying. But what government cannot do, we can do quite easily and effectively. It is not possible for the police to go and make searches at such a micro level. But it is our responsibility towards society and nature to reduce our obsession with kite flying and completely giving up on the use of synthetic threads.

Makar Sakranting or for that matter any other festival is no rivalry but an occasion that should bring happiness on every face. Festivals are not about personal joy but collective joy for the society. It is high time we look for balances between our festivals and social responsibilities. Enjoy the way you want, but first make sure if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Be kind, help others and if you see any bird hurt, provide first aid and reach out to authorities for proper treatment.