Gujarat kites touch new high for Uttarayan festival

By Madhulika Sonkar, IANS
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AHMEDABAD - Multi-coloured kites of all shapes and sizes dotted the otherwise calm blue sky as they soared in the soft breeze at the sprawling Sabarmati river front at the 21st International Kite Festival here Tuesday.

Over 37 countries and eight Indian states are participating in this year’s edition of the festival.

“This is my 14th visit to the festival and it looks better every year. The excitement that we see at this festival is unmatched compared to any other kite flying festival in the world,” Raymonde Degraaf, a kitist from the Netherland, told IANS.

The kite fliers this year have experimented with every thing they could — the string, kite shapes, sizes and materials that range from paper to khadi.

The size of the kites ranges from nine inches to three feet wide.

Kite enthusiasts are keeping in mind the interests of the birds, which are often injured by the twines.

“We are using a different variety of manja (glass-dust coated twine) this year for safety of birds. It is not the usual one that is made up of plastic or synthetic material responsible for killing birds,” said Dero Hu Jora, a kitist from Vietnam.

“This is something we are trying in this festival for the first time,” added Jora, on his second visit to the festival.

The synthetic twine, responsible for injuring birds because of its iron and glass dust content, has been drawing criticism from animal lovers in the city.

The Gujarat Forest and Environment Department had also appealed to the people to take adequate measures for the protection of birds and animals during the festival.

Popularly known as the Uttarayan festival, the day-long kite festival comes as a boost to the tourism and kite industry of the state.

Months before the festival, homes in various cities in Gujarat turn into kite producing factories with family members doing their bit in the seasonal cottage industry that involves paper, sticks, glue and twine manufacturing.

According to figures of the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TGCL), the kite industry has seen a spurt in its annual turnover - from Rs.35 crore to RS.400 crore in the last three years.

“It’s also about tradition because Uttarayan is meant to worship the sun. It marks the decline of winters,” Asghar Belim, a kite flier and president of the Jodhpur-based Suncity Kite Club, told IANS.

“Of course, it is accompanied by experimentation with kite sizes, materials, shapes, and other technicalities,” added Belim, who has been in the business of kite making for the last 20 years.

Belim claims to have created special ‘Lord Kites’ as a tribute to gods. He is participating in the competition this year with unique khadi kites.

“Gujarat is Mahatma Gandhi’s land. And nothing could have done better justice to the father of the nation than a khadi kite,” Belim said.

(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at

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