The decade-old Auckland kite festival continued its tradition of bringing out people in huge numbers to enjoy - kite flying – a prominent cultural activity prevalent in Gujarat and parts of Western India to mark the festival of Makar Sankranti.
The state of Gujarat is gripped in kite flying on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and Vaishnav Parivar NZ Inc had been engaged in the task of recreating that magical experience in Auckland for more than a decade.
This year was the 13th edition of the festival, which has gradually cemented its position of being the first and biggest Kiwi-Indian community event immediately after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The hot sunny weather of the month of January, the summer holiday mood and relatively spare time available in people’s otherwise busy schedules offers extra incentives for people to head towards the kite festival.
The supremely favourable weather of Sunday, January 13, saw over 8,000 men, women and children clad in their summer outfits, with tents and camp chairs spreading themselves at the Avondale ground and enjoying the kite-flying.
Festival-goers enjoyed the festival amid the foot-tapping music played on radio and food-options available on various stalls at the festival.
Kite flying enthusiasts bought their kites from the organisers’ stall who arranged around 3,500 kites this year from India, along with manja (kite-string).
The morning started warm but as the day progressed lurking clouds blanketed the skies with a scattered drizzle and winds took its job of getting the kites to rise high under the greyish skies.
By 2:30 p.m. the Avondale Grounds was flocked with men, women and children giving a jump to the kites, while others were shouting ‘Kai Po Che’ that loosely translates as ‘cut the kite’- a phrase used by the kite flyers in the Gujarati language after cutting the opponent’s kite.
The event was more than just kite flying as the organisers arranged face painting, drawing competitions, henna, bouncing castles and kids’ bungee to keep the children engaged at the event.
For the grown-ups and elderly members of the community, a number of dance and singing activities were hosted on the stage that saw different groups of small children and solo performers entertain the crowd. The entertainment performance was given by VPNZ, Lucky Bhangda Group and Jashu Patel.
As a traditional part of the event seniors, men and women took space near the stage and performed the famous garba dance for more than 20-minutes at a stretch. This part of the day gets high-pumped with over 40-60 people dancing at a time on the loud garba music.
“We have been planning for this event for over a year as it involves liaising with a lot of parties to get the event arrangement smooth for the community,” Manhar Patel, President of Vaishnav Parivar NZ and coordinator the event told the Indian Weekender.
“This event involves getting approval from the local board, Auckland Council, Avondale College, the ground arrangements, getting sponsors, procuring kites from India, getting them ready to fly here, food stalls, chairs, tents, music, stage etc.
“We are happy that we have such a huge turn-out and since the weather improved, we witnessed thousands more who joined us during the afternoon.” Mr Patel added.
The organisers carried several lucky draws by selling raffle tickets to the attendees. Shyamal Shah won the winner of the grand prize- which was a four-days free holiday including accommodation in Gold Coast for two people.
Two cricket souvenir bats supplied by NZ Cricket were auctioned at the event- the proceeds of which went to Vaishnav Parivar NZ.
The bat signed by the Indian cricket team was auctioned for $1600 bought by Ajay Kumar, Director, Global Financial Services, who was also one of the main sponsors of the event.
The bat signed by the players of Black Caps team was auctioned for $255 bought by attendee Brijesh Sethi.
Vaishnav Parivar NZ has started preparations for the 2020 Kite Festival.