BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, celebrated the Hindu festival of Uttarayan as a fun day of kite flying for all the family on Sunday 18 January 2009. The chilly but clear skies above The Swaminarayan School grounds filled with thousands of colourful kites as over 500 people gathered to join in the celebrations.
For many, it was joyfully reminiscent of days in India, particularly Gujarat, where kite flying is a hugely popular part of Uttarayan. The day, usually falling on 14 January every year, marks the beginning of the sun’s journey towards the northern hemisphere (in Sanskrit, uttara means ‘north’, and yana means ‘journey’) indicating the retreat of winter. It is traditionally believed that the kites are a way to welcome the celestial beings who have awoken after their winter hibernation.
The event proved a great success in bringing together young and old and sharing a part of Indian culture in a fun and colourful way. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the kites – as well as the delicious hot food – and many were reluctant to leave. As one young kite-flier remarked: “I didn’t know kite flying was this much fun. I can’t wait ‘til next year.”
Other BAPS centres also held similar events across the UK.