Raigad (Maharashtra), Jan 14 (IANS) The hazy grey winter sky over the picturesque Pen village here became a riot of colours on Tuesday afternoon with hundreds of big and small kites hoisted and flown by young, middle-aged and elderly women.
Amid a thunderous round of applause, the inaugural kite was flown to the skies by the President of Pen Municipal Council (Mrs.) Pritam Patil and it soared joyfully, reflecting the mood of the 700-plus gathering of women watching it, on the Makar Sankranti day.
Then, the other women followed suit with much laughter, giggling, joking and merry-making as many first-timers valiantly attempted to fly kites to conquer the skies, and got playfully jeered for their blunders.
But finally, most got it right and the kites were soon jostling for space and eyes in the skies, leading to a huge round of cheers, clapping and even a quick jig by some of the thrilled young women.
This was the scene at the little-known "8th Women's Kite Festival", labelled as the state's first such all-women's initiative, organized by the Mahila Atyachar Virodhi Manch, (MAVM), Pen, in Raigad, around 100 km south of Mumbai in the coastal Konkan.
This year, the Women's Kite Festival acquired another feather with 'Udaan 2020' to celebrate the noble aims of gender in totality by recognizing equal rights for the LGBTQ communities, besides highlighting the plight of rape-victims.
"The idea is to create awareness about issues related to gender equality. This year we have included the shunned minority falling in the LGBTQ into the Women's Kite Festival folda They are a long ignored community and must enjoy all rights," MAVM Founder and social activist Vaishali Patil told IANS.
A majority of the participants were young girls, mostly orphans or from government-run Ashram Schools in the district, poor and destitute women Neerja Bhatnagar of 'Beti Zindabad Campaign', and a few representatives from the LGBTQ community who joined enthusiastically in the Makar Sankranti celebrations, symbolising the Sun's transit to the Capricorn and the end of the Winter Solstice.
"Flying kites is a symbolic assertion of freedom of women, which is usually ignored or caged by the patriarchal society from which most of us hail. This year, the LGBTQ communities, who are like our asisters' have added more substance to the flavor of the festival," Patil added.
She said that the Ashram School and tribal girls along with the LGBTQs virtually broke the 'glass ceiling' by making a "bold statement against the established societal norms which are tilted heavily in favour of the men".
"Pulling the strings from the ground below, these women virtually took away their blues from the sky and painted it with refreshing, vibrant colours of joy, hope and freedom from all types of oppressions," smiled Patil as she watched the girls enjoying the unique and care-free day out.
The morning started in the cool lush green village with a procession starting from Mahatma Gandhi Library to the Pen Private High School grounds, where the Women's Kite Festival was organized in the open.
During the strenuous event, all the participants were treated to loads of mouthwatering snacks, a gift of a kite and a copy of Savitribai Phule's biography.
Even the PMC Chief Pritam Patil and other dignitaries were welcomed with a kite and a copy of Savitribai Phule's biography instead of the routine garlands and bouquets.
"Our message to all women is - Come Join Us, You Too Have A Dreama Why Holding Yourself Back? Let's Fly High, Beyond the Sky!" Next year, we hope to see an even bigger gathering of women, all wanting to touch the sky freely, without fear," said Patil.