Festival of Fire and Flight

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

A fading afternoon during the Shakrain festival

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

Such festivals have the ability to give people a break from monotonous and mechanical city life.

On this occasion, the sky of old Dhaka swarms with kites of myriad colours and shapes. Regardless of age, gender or religion, the locals as well as the people from outside gather on the rooftops and participate in exciting kite-fights from morning till sunset. The whole neighbourhood is abuzz with the cheers of people and of kite-fighters raging at each other over foul play, at times. The festivities are not limited to kite flying, though. As the lights start to dim, people 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. No wonder the local traders earn a mint by 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 had almost shooed away the ‘call-ready’ microphones as the entire neighbourhood becomes an open-air discotheque charged with youth, dj music, beaming lights and fireworks.

Such festivals have the ability to give people a break from 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 among people, the kite-fighting and the display of fireworks would surely give anyone enough memories to relish.

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ArtIQulate is a publication associated with the Adenauer Fellowship, a scholarship programme by the Media Programme Asia, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Ltd.
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Gopashis Biswas G.Son

Gopashis Biswas G.Son is a visual storyteller based in Bangladesh. His works have been published in periodicals and showcased in over 10 countries around the globe, receiving several prestigious national and international awards. Besides his visual journey, G.Son teaches and examines media and literature at a public university. His present works focus on the symbiosis of new media and its data and how these elements become socioculturally invested with ideals of precision, reliability, objectivity and ‘truth’ in the politico-commercial nexus.

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