BY MAHADEV DESAI
The new BAPS Swami Narayan Hindu Mandir in Lilburn Georgia, celebrated its second annual Uttarayan-kite festival on January 17. Uttarayan marks the changing of the sun’s pattern and the end of winter in India. The vibrant and colorful festival marked with fun and gaiety drew hundreds of devotees and visitors of diverse faiths and cultures. The immaculate parking facilities and the huge forecourt in front of the resplendent Mandir ensured plenty of space for the excited kite flyers. As the biting winter wind howled, imaginatively designed, colorful kites of ruby red, canary yellow, and emerald green went up, up and up in the clear blue skies. The radiant laughter of children, racing to get their kites air-borne and jubilant, triumphant cheers of ‘kaypo chhe’ when razor-sharp manjha cut a competitor’s kite, rant the air. Parents and elders were lost in the precious nostalgic memories of kite-flying in their past, as they taught their own children the art of kite-flying.
As the day progressed, the weather became warmer and more visitors and devotees joined in the festival. Among them was Binal Naik, 25, of Ndola, Zambia, who attended the festival at the Mandir for the first time. “I think it was really interesting to see the enthusiasm with which people celebrated this festival,” she said. “Since it was my first time, it was pretty amazing to see all the kites in the sky.” Men and women, young and old alike, came together to celebrate this festival. Akash Patel, 24, of Boston, commented,“This is the first time that I have seen such an environment on Uttarayan in America,” he said. “After moving from India, this festival brings back childhood memories.”
Mainstream community members were also among the attendees. Ms.Sheryl Goode(a Lilburn resident) and her friend Ms.Littleton(from Gainesville) who were attending for the first time praised the volunteers for teaching them how to fly the kites and also explain the significance of the festival. They also commented that they had a very good time and looked forward to attending the next festival.
While kites flew, music added to the festive spirit. And so did the mouth watering Undhiu, jalebis and other delicious snacks with hot, spicy tea !
Kite flying symbolizes spiritual, cultural and emotional bonding of diverse nations and cultures. As famed Gujarati music maestro Avinash Vyas put it, “Patang no parivar, jagat chhe,patang no parivar’
The ever-courteous and hospitable PR teams of Ritesh Desai, Mitesh Patel, and Jigar Patel together with all other committed and dedicated volunteers deserve full plaudits for the joyous kite-festival. Uttarayan is one of many Hindu festivals that are celebrated at the BAPS Mandir throughout the year. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir keeps the spirit of Hinduism alive through these festivals and helps nurture Indian traditions and culture in young Indian-Americans.