When you get tired of shouting Kaipyo Che and take a rest to prepare for the next kite war, do give a thought to how Uttarayan came to be a holiday in Gujarat.
The trend to declare January 14 as a public holiday first began in Surat. It was the Surtis who led an effort to get Uttarayan declared as a holiday, a demand accepted by the then British rulers. So we have the Surtis to thank for when it comes to celebrating Uttarayan.
The judge behind Uttarayan holidays
Justice Nanabhai Haridas of Surat as the first Gujarati and Hindi justice of the Bombay High Court. At that time, Gujarat was still a part of Bombay. He was a kite aficionado who loved flying them. He used his influence to pressurize the then British Government to declare a holiday for Uttarayan. His influence worked and Uttarayan was declared a public holiday.
Justice Nanabhai Haridas was born in 1832 and studied in Surat excelling in Gujarati, English, Marathi, and Farzi. After finishing his education in a mission school, in 1850 he joined the Elphinstone College in Mumbai. In 1850 he joined as an assistant translator and interpreter in the Supreme Court. In 1857, the British Government got him to translate the IPS and CPC codes to Gujarati.
He left his job at the Supreme Court and began practicing as a lawyer. In 1868 he got his LLM degree from Madras University and was given the post of first-grade subordinate judge by the Bombay government, which he refused.
Later in 1873, Mumbai governor Philips Woodhouse with the help of a special order from Queen Victoria got Justice Nanabhai Haridas as a permanent judge of the Mumbai High court in 1884.
During Uttarayan, the judge who loved the festival used to travel to Surat a day before the festival from Grant road station. He would spend the day in Surat celebrating the festival and leave for Mumbai the same night.
Justice Nanabhai felt that all Gujaratis should be able to enjoy the festival and he made a representation to the British government asking that Uttarayan be declared a public holiday. It is a testimony to the influence he had that the British Government agreed to his demand.
When Gujaratis enjoy Uttarayan holidays, they have a Surti to thank for it!
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