Uttarayan (known as Makar Sakranti in other parts of India) is the day when the sun starts to travel northwards marking the decline of winter. The days become longer, the skies clearer and the breeze cooler. A feeling of anticipation, joy and jubilation grips all who celebrate the occasion of thanksgiving and merry-making.

Gujarat celebrates 2,000 festivals every year! Among these, the festival of Uttarayan is one of the grandest and stands tall. In Gujarat, Uttarayan is a holiday when every family can be met outdoors. People of all ages fly kites from dawn to dusk. Crowded rooftops, fun-loving rivalry to outdo each other in kite flying skills and delicious traditional Gujarati feast are the hallmarks of the day.

History & Significance

The fascination and the revelry associated with the kite flying cuts across age groups, class and communities. Although, Uttarayan is predominantly a Hindu festival marking the awakening of the gods from their deep slumber, history has it that India developed a rich tradition of kite flying due to the patronage of the Kings and Nawabs who found the sport both entertaining and a way of displaying their prowess. Trained fliers were employed to fly kites for kings. Slowly, the art started becoming popular amongst the masses. Today, manufacturing of kites is a serious business. It attracts big names of the corporate world as kites provide for the most cost-effective opportunity for branding. The stakes are high and prizes for the competition grand.
Months before the festival of Uttarayan, homes in the localities of various cities in Gujarat turn into kite producing factories with all family members doing their bit in the seasonal cottage business. The paper and sticks are cut, the glue is stirred and thousands of kites are prepared in the market. The string is coated with a special glass powder and rice paste, all set to cut each other’s strings and knock down the kites. The size of the kite ranges from nine inches to three feet.
Members of various communities irrespective of cast and creed are engaged in the business of kites. Rich or poor, people enjoy this festival in their own ways. The aerodynamic skill, devotion and ingenuity that goes into the kite making and flying is almost a religion in itself, honed to the level of an art form, though it looks deceptively simple.

Source: http://hinduism.about.com/cs/festivals/a/aa011103a.htm

some photos for you:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meanestindian/sets/72157594478128903/