The International kite festival of Gujarat is a unique festival celebrated on 14th January every year in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It was started in 1989 and attracts international as well as local flyers who demonstrate their unique creations and fascinate the crowd.
Gujarat Tourism hosts the International Kite Festival drawing crowds to witness the show of eminent kitists from across many countries. People from all over the world display exotic kites of various designs. In the past, master kite makers from Malaysia have brought their wau-balang kites, llayang-llayanghave come from Indonesia, kite innovators from the USA have arrived with giant banner kites, and Japanese rokkaku fighting kites have shared the skies with Italian sculptural kites, Chinese flying dragons, and the latest high-tech modern wonders. A famous kite maker and flyer Rasulbhai Rahimbhai of Ahmedabad creates a team of upto 500 kites on a single string.
It is a spectacular sight to see the clear blue sky dotted with colourful box kites to high-speed sport kites, to hand-painted artistic kites. The International Kite Festival in Gujarat has become a major tourist attraction and is also significant for the Vibrant Gujarat – Global Investor’s Summit held during this time.
History stands testimony that India developed a rich tradition of kite flying over the years due to the encouragement of the kings and nawabs. They found the sport very entertaining and a means of displaying their talent. Kings employed trained fliers to fly kites for them. Slowly, the art was adopted by the common people. Over 1000 years ago, kites were mentioned in songs by the composer Santnambe, and numerous classic miniature paintings of typical scenes in the area depict people flying kites. This fascinating history is vividly depicted in the Kite Museum of Ahmedabad.
The Kite Museum
Located in Sanskar Kendra, Ahmedabad, the Museum houses an extraordinary collection of rare kites built by Bhanubhai Shah. The museum is his brainchild. For 50 years, Bhanubhai Shah carefully treasured uniquely crafted kites. From kites crafted from 400 pieces of paper, to uniquely coloured kites, from kites which are 22 by 16 feet, to some of the smallest kites, from miniature paintings of Radha Krishna to the intricately crafted sequences of garba dances, mirror work and block prints, one can get a glimpse of it all. The kites are made from different materials: polythene, spinnakers nylon, cotton and paper.
One of the most lavishly designed and decorated kites in the Kite Museum are the hexagonal Rokkaku which are beautiful Japanese kites.
A visit to the Kite Museum is an enriching experience, as one gets to witness the rich culture and history, as well as get fascinated by the beautiful designs of the kites.
The international kite festival coincides with the festival of Uttarayan, also known as Makar Sankranti in other parts of North India and Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
The word ‘Uttarayan’is made of two Sanskrit words:‘uttar’ (North) and ‘ayan’ (movement towards). Together the word means, movement of Sun towards the Northern Hemisphere. It heralds a change of season, marking the arrival of spring and end of winter season. According to Hindu astronomy, the Sun enters the zodiac of Makara (Capricorn), another reason why it is called Makar Sankranti.
From dawn to dusk, people of all age groups fly kites of different colours and sizes, rejoicing in the spirit of the day. A bright, sunny day with brisk breezes to lift the kites aloft, crowded rooftops, fun- loving rivalry to outdo each other, and Gujarati delicacies like Laddoos, Undhyu or Surati Jamun are the hallmarks of the day. At night, illuminated paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings called tukkals decorate the night sky.
A special mixture of glue and ground glass cover the strings with which the kites are flown. They are dried and rolled into reels. The strings need to be used with utmost care since they are sharp enough to cut a finger.
The festival is so popular that there is an entire market dedicated towards kites, called PatangBazaar in Ahmedabad, wherein people enjoy the food stalls, cultural performances and special kite displays. Production of kites and kite supplies can be seen on the streets of Ahmedabad beginning in November, to get ready for Uttarayan. For the week preceding the festival, the Bazaar open 24 hours a day for all kite lovers to stock up for the festivities.