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Festival of fire and flight

  • Published at 01:04 pm June 3rd, 2018

The Dhakai version of the traditional Poush Sankranti or Makar Sankranti marking the occasion of the end of Bangla month, “Poush” is known as Shakrain. The tradition dates back to over a thousand years. Many believe that this is the day when the Asuras (i.e. the bad) were defeated and banished from the earth. Local beliefs also go by stating that on this day the Sun goes to the home of his son, Saturn. Hence the day is significant to celebrate the father-son relationship.

Hundreds of people gather on different rooftops to celebrate the change in the seasonal cycle through a magnificent display of colours, free spirits and the victory of virtuosity.

On this occasion, the sky of old Dhaka swarms with kites of myriad colours and shapes. Regardless of age, gender and religion the localities as well as the people from outside gather on the rooftops and participate in exciting kite-fights from morning till sunset. The whole neighbourhood buzzes with cheers of people along with kite-fighters raging over each-other for foul play, at times. The festivity is not limited to kite-flying though. As daylight starts to wane, performers start fire-blowing/breathing and light up lanterns along with fire crackers. During this Sankranti, the old Dhaka sky becomes a decorated piece of artwork that displays extravagant fireworks, laser lighting and light balloons. The local traders make a windfall selling countless kites, spools and firecrackers. A few years back, the local organizers would rent microphones to play and sing songs all day long. But, as Old Dhaka grew older, the modern booming sound systems and dj-parties have all but replaced the ‘call-ready’ microphones as the entire neighbourhood becomes an open-air discotheque charged with DJ music, beaming lights and fireworks.

Such festivals have the ability to give people a break from the monotonous and mechanical city life. Take a moment to look up into the sky full of kites; these kites have beautiful names like petkhati, chandial, bogga, mombati etc. The years old traditions, the harmony in people, the kite-fighting and the display fireworks would surely give anyone enough memories to relish.