K is for kite flying

This is a completely wrong time to talk about kites and kite flying in India. But try telling that to the kids. Do they care? Not a whit. And so last weekend they decided they wanted to make kites. Here's what they came up with:

We used kite paper, some sequins and sketch pens. Fed up of all the sticking and drawing they went on to make some simpler ones that were done in a jiffy. I seriously doubt these will get anywhere close to the skies but the kids had fun. 

While on kites I will not be true to my hometown Lucknow without telling a tiny bit about kite flying in my city. We call it 'patang bazi' or 'kankauwe bazi'.

While all over India kites are flown on the festival of Makar Sankranti around 14 of January in Lucknow we do things differently, just like the twins! For us the kite flying day is the day after the festival of Diwali, sometime in October/November. The festival is known as Jamghat (literally translated it means 'gathering'). The idea behind it is that all evil flies away along with the kites.

The entire city comes to a stand still that day. Shops are shut and so are offices. The entire population makes its way to terraces and fields brandishing their kite-flying gear for some serious action. The idea of a kite fight is to tangle the opponent's kite in yours and then cut it off. The string plays a crucial role in this action packed drama in the skies. Known as manjha, it is coated with many layers of a paste of crushed glass mixed with a binding agent. It's quite lethal and I well remember, for my cousins a good day at Jamghat invariably meant cut and bleeding fingers. Not that they cared one bit as they gloated about the kites they had cut and the victories they had scored. Of course the amateurs only got to hold the charkhi (or the spool) till they finally progressed to actually handling the kite.

Jamghat is said to have been initiated during the times of the Nawabs to bring together all communities of the city. The nawabs were known to be large hearted if degenerate rulers. A story goes that they used golden or silver strings so that anyone who got their kites could benefit from them. It was Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who brought in kites similar to the ones we have today.

One last word: Long long ago kites were also used to convey romantic messages. The only catch - you never could be sure who got your message! It must have resulted in plenty of intrigue I'm sure. 

Linking to ABC Wednesday for the letter K. Head on over for more K posts.

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