Om Suryay Namah! So went the chant that filled the air as Hindus, both young and old, performed the yogic exercise known as Surya namaskar, joyously heralding Sun’s celestial journey into Makar Rashi that brings longer and warmer days. The celebration saw hundreds of colourful kites of different shapes racing and zigzagging across the sky. Melodious thematic songs added to festivity of the occasion.
After days of cold weather and rains, Makar Sankranti celebrations at George Bush Park saw a clear sky and perfect weather for a festival of fun.
Over 4,000 men, women and children joined in festivities with kite-flying, yoga, and music. It was a picnic with a difference where people from various parts of greater Houston area gathered to mark the festival that also signifies the sun’s northward journey, Uttarayan.
The festival organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, Gujarati Samaj of Greater Houston and Hindus of Greater Houston, with other organisations participating, has become a favourite fun day for the last two decades. This year because of the wet outfield, games like cricket and kabaddi were cancelled but that did not diminish the enthusiasm of the gathering. The day extended for almost eight hours with music, food and kite-flying, were the big attractions. “Gujarati Samaj served khichari and buttermilk free, like every year,” said Prakash Shah, the President of the association.
Ekal Vidyalaya volunteers provided 1,000 cups of masala tea free.
Swami Nikhilanand, pracharak for JKP Barsana Dham in Austin, TX, was the chief guest of the programme and inaugurated the ‘Surya Namaskar Yajna’ at the park. He stated that “It was very nice to see all the members of the various Hindu temples and organisations in the Houston area getting together to share goodwill and fun during this year’s Makar Sankranti celebration. It was a very spirited and well-attended event which I’m sure will provide good memories for the many participants.”
ICC President Swapan Dhairyawan was happy to see “great enthusiasm and impeccable weather helping to make it a great fun day.” Pradip Parekh, VHPA Houston, President-elect, said “as always, we are very pleased that several thousand people, especially our youth, came together to celebrate Makar Sankranti. Leaders of many organisations within the community expressed to me their satisfaction and thanks and promised their co-operation for future events.”
Sharad Patel, event co-coordinator, noted the large number of participants and volunteers, stating “Many volunteers were helping as early as 8 am, loading tables, chairs, boxes of kites and more in order to take them at the park by 9 am. Others stayed as late at 6 pm to clean-up and return the items to storage.” He also praised the helpfulness of the nine police officers in contributing to the success of the event. He has plans to add more officers and volunteers next year.
A new volunteer, Sheetal Parwal, summed-up the feelings of many, saying “The enthusiasm of the team and the public at large for kite-flying was amazing! It made me remember my childhood days when we used to fly kites on Makar Sankranti back at home in India.”