In Asia and the Pacific Islands, kite flying has spiritual significance. It is especially significant in the Hindu festival Marak Sankranti, also called Uttarayana, which celebrates the vernal equinox, or the end of winter, the lengthening of daytime and the triumph of light over darkness.
Historically, In Some Cultures, Kite Flying is a form of Prayer
- In New Zealand some tribes use kites to send messages to the Gods.
- In Thailand, they were flown to send prayers to the Heavens.
- In Korea, kites are used to invoke prosperity and wealth.
- Sri Chinmoy, considered a holy man from Bangladesh, moved to New York in 1964 to share his spiritual beliefs. He considers kite flying as an invocation, “a knock at Heaven’s door.”
From Technology to Art: Kites in China and Japan
In China, ancient kites were regarded as a type of technology and filled numerous purposes, both in peace and war. Eventually the kite became both an art and a pastime. WeiFang, now home of the World Kite Federation, became the kite making capital of China in approximately the year 2,000.
Approximately one thousand years later, the kite was introduced to Japan, where it was also used as a new technology for construction. In Japan the kite also became an art form that was very distinct from the kites of China, but just as exquisite in design. Eventually the kite took on additional significance in Japan, meaning thanksgiving and good luck.
Spiritual Significance of Kite Flying Among Followers of Hinduism
For Hindu believers, kite flying marks the vernal equinox, and is called Makara Sankranti. The vernal equinox is the first day of spring, when the days begin to lengthen.
Hindus celebrate this day because the Sun represents selfless giving. Kites are flown in thanksgiving to the Sun, which gives life to the world without seeking any reward.
Because its selflessness, the Sun symbolizes the attributes of Karma Yoga. Spring is celebrated as a season of enlightenment and spiritual growth. It represents the triumph of light over darkness and positive qualities over negative.
The spring kite flying festival is also referred to as Uttarayana, or the beginning of the movement of the Sun to the northern sky.
Additional Spiritual Significance of Makara Sankrani
Three legends add to the significance of Makara Sankrani in the Hindu Tradition:
- The Sun, or the father, reputedly did not like his son Shani; but during the period of Makara Sankrani, the Sun stays in the house of his son for a month, symbolizing the importance of the relationship between father and son.
- It was on the first day of spring that Lord Vishnu, a god-like entity who loved peace and order, banished the evil done by the Asuras – entities similar to demons – who were unruly and destructive. Makara Sankrani represents the end of mischief and disorder and the beginning of peace and righteousness.
- There are many versions of this story, but according to legend, an ancient wiseman named Kapila was abused by the sons of the King Sagara. The sage turned the princes into dust. They could only be revived by the water of the Ganges, which was sacrificed. On Makara Sankrani, a king named Bhagirath performed rituals and prayed until the curse was lifted and the Ganges river returned to India.
History of Kites: A Link Between God and Man
The beauty of kites is only matched by their spirituality. There are numerous kite flying festivals all around the world. People from all backgrounds attend the Uttarayan Kite Festival at Lilburn, Georgia, to celebrate the Makara Sankrani with the Hindu faithful. Those who attend feel the rebirth of light and spring in the flying of the kites.