Kite Flying In India

by admin on January 3, 2013

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KitesJanuary 14 is Makar Sankranti; a day of harvest. The Puranas say that this was the day when the Sun God Surya went to visit the home of his son Shani (Saturn). It also marks the Sun’s celestial journey into Makara rashi( Capricorn). It is celebrated under various names in India. It’s called Lohri in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, Maghi in Himachal and Haryana, Makara Vilakku in Kerala, Suggi in Karnataka and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. In fact this festival is celebrated in most of South East Asia too like Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

What binds it together in India is that it’s a day of kite flying, and nowhere better than in Gujarat where the International Kite festival is held Ahmedabad on January 14 every year. The word ‘patang’ or kite found its way in Indian literature through poet Manzan in his works called ‘Madhumati’ in 1542. He associated kite fights with quarrels between loved ones. Hundreds of years later, Patang Nagar was created in Ahmedabad so that craftsmen not just from India but from world over can demonstrate their skills in both kite-making and flying during this festival. The festival here is locally known as the celebration of Uttarayani; in reference to the Sun’s transition from Cancer into Capricorn even as the migratory birds start returning north and winter starts to recede. As the blue skies get littered with the most common diamond shaped kites flown from the roof tops; they ‘fight’ by snagging each other to cut off the opponent’s lines through friction and abrasion. There is an intrinsic art involved in this skill of cutting off each other’s kites through dueling, some times needing a another person to hold the string reel. The duels sometimes last from dawn to dusk. As soon as dusk falls, dazzling illuminated kites tied in series pop up to fill the night skies, making it a spectacle to behold. One of the classic new attractions is 500 kites on a single string!Kite flying competition

The festival is the ideal time to watch inflatable kites and designer kites of all shapes and sizes rising up to the air; made from different materials, using different  types of glue.  Some of the eye catching attractions are the Japanese Rokkaku fighting kites, Chinese Flying Dragons,  Malaysian Wau Balang kites, Indonesian Ilayang-llayang  kites and giant banner kites from USA. In fact the Kite Museum in Ahmedabad illustrates the history of kites, starting from 200 BC when Huien Tsang flew a kite at night to leave the army of Liu Pang of Han dynasty in China, awestruck. It goes on to elucidate how Benjamin Franklin showed to the world that lightning was electricity by flying a kite through a thunderstorm in 1752. Finally, the museum depicts how kite flying eventually lead to the Wright brothers developing the air plane in 1902 and the advent of modern kites.

The International Kite Festival complements the religious significance of Makar Sankaranti wherein it is believed that the Gods who were asleep for the preceding six months finally awaken on this day.  This day is also dedicated to the Sun God, Surya. While some folks visit temples to pray and offer alms to the poor, some folks look upon this day as one for feasting on local delights that are specially prepared to celebrate the day. It is indeed a must visit for those interested in kites their aesthetics and their prowess. To top it all, year 2013 will celebrate the 25 years of the International Kite Festival.

Ahmedabad lies at a road distance of 950 kilometres from Delhi and takes about 13 hours to travel by car from Delhi. There are lots of planes and trains too, to get to the International Kite Festival. So, don’t miss it.

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