The culture of kite flying in India

From being historically significant to becoming a festive delight

Culture

August 4, 2018

/ By / New Delhi



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Kite flying in India is more than just a craft

Kite flying in India is more than just a craft – Photo copyright: Paul Chapman

Bright coloured kites, spools and their coloured threads paint a perfect picture in the Indian skies especially during the harvest festivals and the Indian independence day. In the country, kite flying goes beyond festivities – it is an expression of patriotism and also marks the beginning of a new season.

The sky is filled with seemingly tiny colourful quadrangles as people shout “Aayi-bo-kaate” (I got you) from their rooftops as they attempt to bring down another person’s kite by cutting its thread. The air is filled with the noise of “Aayi-bo” as neighbours also join the winner for the chant.

The tradition of kite flying in India is ancient and believed to have been brought into the country by Chinese travellers Huin Tsang and F Hien. The earlier Chinese kites were rectangular and flat, and were used for measuring distances, signaling and also for communicating military operations.

After kites were introduced in India, they were named in Hindi as patang (fighter kite).

Over the years, both kite-flying and kite-making skills have evolved. From the ancient delicate ones made of paper and wooden sticks, they are now made with flexible materials that make them more resilient. Shaped like a diamond, they have a center spine and a bow shaped intersecting spine that gives shape to the kites.

Also ReadInternational Kite Festival: Experiencing the flavours of Gujarat.

                        Kites Makers in Old Delhi.

Kites have been gradually evolving for a long time now. Today, there are more varieties available as compared to 15 years ago. There are more colours and patterns to choose from. Also, I remember when I was a 10-year-old, a regular kite would cost INR 1 and price of a kite slightly bigger in size would never go beyond INR 5. Now it costs INR 5 for a regular sized kite and there’s no upward limit to the price of bigger kites, says Abhinav Verma, who has been flying kites for the last 20 years.

Tricolour kites being sold during the Indian Independence Day

Tricolour kites being sold during the Indian Independence Day

“Kites have become more thematic. On the Independence Day, you can see kites designed in orange, white and green (colours from the India flag) with slogans like ‘born to be free’, ‘I love India’, etc. Another trend is that these kites are also used to spread social awareness with quotes like ‘beti bachao, beti padhao‘ (save and educate girls),” says Kalpana Sharma, a resident of west Delhi.

More than just a celebration
On the Indian Independence Day (August 15), kites soar high in the sky, symbolising a free nation that India became on this day. But apart from being just a symbolical form of celebration, the flying of kites also has a historical significance.

‘Go Back Simon’, was the slogan used in protest against the Simon Commission in India during the 1920s. At that time, Indians used kites as a medium of protest. Kites with the slogan ‘Go Back Simon’ written over them were flown. Since then, kite flying has become a tradition for Indians on Independence Day to praise autonomy from British tenet. Besides spreading out the national flag on August 15, Indians get occupied with kite flying as an expression of freedom, joy and patriotism.

“The sky used to turn into a rainbow. I am not exaggerating but there used to be no space for the birds to fly. Today, I see the number of kites in the sky have reduced. But of course there are others who are carrying forward the culture. Kite flying is a matter of family get togethers, good festive food and some kite flying competitions with the neighbours, especially on the Indian Independence Day,” says Baldev Raj (75), a retired railway officer living in New Delhi.

Of spring and harvest

Different parts in India have various times of the year dedicated to some festivals centered around kite flying. One of the most significant amongst them is Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan, a festival celebrated on January 14. This is the day when the winter season officially ends and spring starts – a transition symbolic of discarding the previous season’s bad and the beginning of a fresh new season.

Every year on this day, various states in the country like Gujarat organise kite festivals. These festivals attract expert kite-makers and flyers, not only from India, but also from around the world.

Other festivals include Basant Panchami in Punjab and Pongal in South India.

 

Also Read – International Kite Festival at Gujarat concludes on a high.

                        The kite festivals bring professionals from around the world.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Sang says:

    The tradition of kite flying has been followed over generations in the Indian society and the history of kite flying is described very exquisitely in the Kite Museum in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The festivals attract expert kite-makers and flyers not only from cities of India but also from all around the world.

    According to Hindu astronomy, Makar Sankranti is the day when the Sun begins its movement away from the Tropic of Capricorn. Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti marks the gradual end of winters and the onset of summers. The festivals are one of the most auspicious days across the country for the farmers as it also suggests the beginning of the harvest season. Uttarayan is celebrated every year on January 14, in parts of north India, and Pongal in Tamil Nadu, and continues on to the January 15.

  2. Jgnesh Mewani says:

    Consistently, Gujarat commends more than 200 celebrations. The International Kite Festival (Uttarayan) is viewed as one of the greatest celebrations celebrated. Months before the celebration, homes in Gujarat start to produce kites for the celebration.

    The celebration of Uttarayan imprints the day when winter starts to transform into summer, as indicated by the Indian date-book. It is the sign for agriculturists that the sun is back and that collect season is moving toward which is called Makara Sankranti. This day is thought to be a standout amongst the most imperative collect day in India. Numerous urban communities in Gujarat compose kite rivalry between their natives where the general population all rival each other. In this district of Gujarat and numerous different states, Uttarayan is such a colossal festival, to the point that it has turned into an open occasion in India for two days. During the celebration, neighborhood sustenance, for example, Undhiyu (a blended vegetable including yam and beans), sesame seed fragile and Jalebi is served to the crowds.Days before the celebration, the market is loaded with members purchasing their provisions. In 2012, the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat said that the International Kite Festival in Gujarat was endeavoring to enter the Guinness World Records book because of the investment of 42 nations in it that year.

    Here we enjoyed a lot by flight kites and dance on music eat delicious food like tilgud, gajak etc.

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