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Kite festival returns to Auckland after two years

Hundreds of kite enthusiasts are expected to flock to Auckland's Eastdale Reserve in Avondale on 13 January in a bid to win one of many prizes on offer at the Uttarayan Makar Sankranti kite festival.

Organised by community group Vaishnav Parivar, the festival is being held for the first time since 2021, with an estimated 8,000 visitors in attendance.

The highlight of the festival is the kite battle for supremacy in the air, though other offerings include food stalls, live cultural performances, folk dances, rides, face painting and a drawing competition for children.

In India, Makar Sankranti is typically celebrated on 14 January.

On this day in the Hindu calendar, winter starts turning to spring as the sun transitions from the zodiac sign of Sagittarius to Capricorn.

As the day also marks the beginning of the harvest season, it's traditionally a time for feasts, singing and dancing.

People share sweets made from sesame and light bonfires to ward off evil spirits. They also pray for a bountiful harvest.

That said, the main attraction is kite flying, especially in the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

According to tradition, flying kites is seen as a way to avoid bad luck and old grievances. A kite's string acts as a symbolic cord, lifting all the negative aspects of a person's life up into the sky.

People of all ages take to open spaces or roof tops to fly their unique kites and compete with friends.

The kites are attached to a spool of manja - a string coated with glass shards that is sharp enough to cut the cords of rival kites.

The festival also includes contests for the most beautiful, unique or highest-flying kites.

Some popular kite designs include birds, animals, mythological figures and even celebrities.

The festival also strengthens community spirit as the events are often family-oriented, providing for shared experiences and transcending social barriers.

Kite flying in India has a long and rich history, dating back centuries.

In modern times, the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat has hosted the International Kite Festival since 1989. The competition is the largest kite festival in the world, attracting participants from across the globe.

"In past years, master kite makers from Malaysia have brought their wau-balang kites, llayang-llayanghave come from Indonesia, kite innovators from the USA have arrived with giant banner kites and Japanese rokkaku fighting kites have shared the skies with Italian sculptural kites, Chinese flying dragons and the latest high-tech modern wonders," organisers of this year's festival say.

Jaipur in Rajasthan also hosts a stunningly beautiful kite festival that is held in front of the backdrop of its world-famous forts.

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