In Delhi, the arrival of 15th August brings with it a spectacular array of granduer and splendour. The streets are filled with festivities and the bright Indian sky is speckled with multicoloured kites. Young and old unite as one while each family tries to prove its mettle to their neighbours by taking them down in a fun-filled yet competitive ‘kite fight’. Big or small, cheap or costly, monochromatic or brightly coloured, these stringed machines reign the skies of our capital on the day we won our Independence.
Historically speaking, the relationship between Delhi and Kite flying goes back to the Mahabharata, where it is mentioned that Krishna spent his leisure time flying kites with the Gopikas. Kites have also played a significant role in the freedom struggle as they were used by the common people as a symbol of their unity against the oppressive Simon Commission, in 1928. The Indian skyline was filled with an army of paper birds, with the slogan ‘Go Back’ plastered over their bodies. Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that these kites are used, till date, to signify the freedom and Independence we have rightfully earned from our oppressors.
Kite Flying is more than just a yearly festival for people living in Old Delhi. Lal Kuan market, known for its large number of kite manufacturers and sellers, has seen families in which successive generations dedicate their life to a practice they consider a Kala-an art form. Delhi also boasts of close to 150 kite clubs, such as Evergreen Kite Flying Club and Galaxy Kite Flying Club to name a few. Members of such clubs often come together every Sunday, with bright kites and manjhas (Thread), all set to watch them soar into the sky. On some days, intense kite-matches are also held where groups are made and everyone comes together to enjoy a morning full of passionate team spirit and camaraderie.
Despite the existence of Kite clubs and enthusiasts, the unfortunate truth is that kite flying is now a dying sport due to ignorance and lack of cultural enthusiasm by the younger generations. Many attempts have been made in the recent past to revive the significance of this age-old game. 2011 saw the introduction of a kite-cutting competition organised at India Gate to encourage its revival. Many of the kite enthusiasts are now trying to promote their passion though the marketing of the already existing Kite clubs. Some blame the exorbitant price hikes as the main cause of this fading art, but a lot is left unsaid when today’s generation turns towards their computer and Play Stations instead of choosing to pursue something traditional and timeless.
No matter how disconnected we might be from this ancient sport, today on 15th August, a majority of people living in Delhi will bring out some thread and a colourful paper kite, ready to spray paint the blue canvas above with a splash of vibrant hues.