Halifax Kite Festival brings Indian diaspora a taste of home
When Nikunj Kachhadiya came to Halifax from India 12 years ago, he knew he wanted to take a piece of home home with him.
He is one of the organizers of the Atlantic Kite Festival, a free event held each August that brings color to the skies of Halifax and joy to the local Indian community.
“It was kind of my dream, you know, to bring this festival to where I will be when I get to my next home,” Kachhadiya said.
The Indian Kite Festival goes by many names, but it is often referred to as Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan. It comes from ancient times, marking the movement of the sun in Capricorn and the new year.
“It’s kind of a fun, happy atmosphere, you know, and there’s a lot of joy around it,” Kachhadiya said.
The festival usually takes place in January in India, but to make it work in Halifax, the date has been changed to summer.
On Saturday and Sunday, people dispersed to Citadel Hill, some to fly their kites and others to watch the show. The festival also offers a few special extra large kites with accessories called pendants which have been a hit with the crowd.
But these kites are what Kachhadiya calls “show kites”, which can be very different from the kites flown in India.
For the Indian festival, the kite is usually competitive. People use small kites tied to cotton string, which is treated with a special mixture often containing eggs and glass.
Competitors try to cut the strings of other kites and pull them out of the air. Children run and collect fallen kites.
“It’s usually a fight between friends, a fight between neighbors. And, you know, at the end of the night, everyone has dinner and it’s a good family day,” Kachhadiya said.
memories of home
Yashesh Savani also remembers flying kites as a child in India.
“I want to stay connected to the culture and this is, like, the best event and stay connected to the roots,” he said.
He hopes the event can blend Indian and Western culture.
“It’s an inclusive event so everyone can learn something from each other and it makes them feel part of the Indian culture family,” he said.
Sam Soni brought his children to the festival, echoing his own childhood memories.
“As soon as we got home from school, we would go to the rooftops and start flying kites,” Soni said.
“It brings back a lot of memories for us and it’s a good thing that we can share this with our children.”
Kachhadiya said the festival has grown in popularity over the years. He and other organizers plan to travel across the country to meet fellow kite enthusiasts.
Ultimately, he is happy to spread the joy of kites and Indian culture.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I mean, Halifax is my home. So, you know, I’d like to do something for the community.”