India’s Kite Festival (Makar Sankranti) – or the Biggest Kite Fight of the Year
Hundreds, maybe, thousands of kites fill the cool January sky every year on Makar Sankranti (or Uttarayan), especially in western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat.
Children, young and old, wait for this day. They buy the best quality kite they can get, not the most expensive, or the biggest, or even the most colorful – but one that can withstand the winds and stay up in the sky for the longest. Made up of light weight paper and bamboo (or similar bendy woods), it is not your typical recreational ‘foofy’ kite with long swirly tails. This is an “Indian Fighter Kite”, with a short triangular tail, like a jet fighter, made to FIGHT.
Yup, fight. If you have been in one, you know. The minute you are up, there is someone, maybe several of them, waiting to cut your kite loose. They have skill, stamina and a not-so-secret weapon, the manja (the string). Coated with glass powder and other abrasives, the manja is deadly and known to hurt birds and humans (we are amazed it has not been banned yet). Now multiply this scene, several dozen times and the sky is littered with mini-battles all over. A skirmish is won when a kite starts falling and then on with the next one. It can be quite the spectacle.
Cut kites are picked up by kite runners, little children, who carelessly chase them as they glide down, swerving side to side with changing directions of the winter wind. The last one cut is a big prize and is another spectacle to watch by itself. (For the uninitiated, you must read the book “Kite Runner”, which although based in Afghanistan describes a similar scene).
The battle for the skies ends with heading home and having til laddoo and other goodies made just for the day.
P.S Take a closer look at our very own Red Patang Logo : does it look familiar?