The International Kite Festival, Ahmedabad

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January 10th 2006
Published: January 10th 2006
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International Kite Festival, Ahmedabad

‘dheel de, dheel de de re bhaiya…’, the popular number from Bollywood’s basket aptly sums the excitement and thrill in the kite festivals held across the world, and delves into the Indianised face of the grand fiesta.
The most renowned kite festival of India takes place at Ahmedabad on January 14 to coincide with uttarayan and Makar Sankranti. But it was as early as 200 bc, that Huen tsang of China flew a kite at night to scare the army of the Han dynasty. In the 930 Ad its Japan who first mentions ‘shiroshi’( meaning paper bird) which is considered to be the predecessor of the modern day Kite. China took it up as a popular sport between 960-1130 AD. China also attached some myth with the flying of kites and that why it was flown on the ninth day of the ninth month to banish evil!
Now coming back to India, in Indian literature kites have been mentioned as patang (meaning flying insects). It was first mentioned in Manzan’s ‘Madhumati’.
It was in the year 1989 that the International kite flying festival in Ahmedabad donned its present stature. In a bid to attract tourists during the vacations of winter, January 13 was selected as the inaugural day while the events took place from the 14th, which included competitions, exhibitions of kites and display of kite-flying skills. Ever since the fest has grown only bigger.
The business aspect of the fest is also quite remarkable as world-class craftsmen’s come down to show their skills in kite making. A special ‘patang bazar’ has been created for the sale and display of various types of kites and reels. The three day festival sees patang bazaar at its annual best, with the most exquisite and colourful collections from across the world. It uses diverse materials like-cloth, paper, and fibreglass etc. to create the kites, which have to be light enough to follow the breeze as well as creative enough to be called a ‘toy’. Yes, its not only the paper-cut kites, but different shaped kites resembling animals, flowers etc. are also available to confuse the onlooker, who might just want to take every thing from the lot on display!!
The entire city is so much obsessed with this fest so much so that even at night, the patang bazaar doesnot close!

Secrets to succeed in the game:

The ‘firkee’ has to be prepared really well. Sharper the firkee, better the position of the kite to cut its competitors.
For those who are not aware, ‘firkee’ is actually a mixture of glue and ground glass to cover the thin but strong thread dried and rolled onto rears.
Experts specially prepare this.
The firkee can be sharp enough to cut fingers!!
The kites for the night are the illuminated box kites called ‘tukals’. They are strung on a line to be launched onto the fast dark night sky.
Designer kites can both be a curse or boon! Cause these good looking kites can often land their owner into trouble because of their heavy decorations!

The tradition and festivity:

Bright sun and clear sky is considered the perfect climate to fly kites and, the tradition of flying kites in India is not new. Instead you could call it as one of the old world traditional sport, which has succeeded to metamorphosis itself to get ahead with the changing times, and thus sustain its existence. Hence whereas at one time kite-paper was considered the sole option for manufacturing kites, while today even motorized kites are in the market! India has somehow clung to this fest, more prevalent in North India today. Rural India even today sees its vast sky blowing colourful kites at different seasons of the year. In towns and cities where finding greenery is tougher than buying a plot on the moon, enthusiastic people reach their terrace or roof to fly kites. In fact in cities today is restricted to rooftops and competition between neighbours!

Basant or Makar sankranti are the primary times to fly kites. In fact the kite flying fest in Ahmedabad is traditional festivity to mark to departure of winter for the year.

The venue:

In ahmedabad the three-day ocassion is marked by battles between friends and strangers where triumph and joy reign. It’s the time to celebrate. So much positive energy and vibe is rarely seen in a family-function like this. In fact very few festivals can parallel the concept of this celebration.
This international event that attracts huge attention is organised by the Gujrat Tourism Corporation. It is either held in the sardar patel stadium or the police stadium in Ahmedabad, where local champions as well as international biggies unite. And the best part is even if you don’t engage yourself in the battle, or have no family or friend fighting it out, you have enough reason to cheer in the colourful ambience that looks like some annual get together!
And for vistrs especially foreigners who like to know more about the kites there’s the local museum to give the history and fascinating statistics.

The Additional fun:

Its not just the reels and patang…it’s the time to see gujrat in its traditional style. So are right Garba makes the show a perfect complete treat. Indian traditional festivals are incomplete without dance and music. So keeping at pace with the culture the musicians and dancers are there to congratulate the winners and cheer up the losers.

And of course how can you forget the delicacies- the gujrati sweets as sweet as the peple of gujrat add the final touch. Udhiyu, Surati Jaman, katiawadi bhanu etc. are served.

For devotees its yet another reason to throng the temples. The integral part of the myth associated with the festivity is that the gods who have been sleeping for six months rise again marked by the entrance of the sun into the northern hemisphere.

The lingo:

Yes like every special occasion in India even this custom has got its specific terms. When someone cuts the others kite the word of cheer and challenge is ‘kaypoche’. Even ‘lappet’ is considered a term describing the moment. So you hear energetic shouts of these words to excite spectators as well who join in the celebrations.

Other venues:

Other than ‘the’ fest of Ahmedabad, Baroda is also known for celebrating the occasion with remarkable zest. Then of course all north India too enjoys the event. Rajasthani sky is known for donning colourful mantle of kites on the day of makar Sankranti. Certain venues in Delhi too have feast during the occasion. Thus, this is another fest to cheer up India and Indians, and calling tourists worldwide.

Kites are often considered to be a metaphor for life, that flies…that has to reach its heights, that has to battle competitors and get over obstacles. The colours of life are reflected in the variety of kites. And above all, like in the competition it’s not a person but the positive spirit that reigns…life too has to hone a positive dimension. The game is more important that results, so life is more important that the destiny. So play it! And play it well….

Some Information in this site has been taken from certain websites, search engine Google and


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