Last up date:1998/11/08
Kite-Flying Heritage in Nepalby Mr.Nirmal Man Tuladhar
Kite-flying in Nepal is seasonal and is associated with one of the biggest festivals, Dasain (Mohani in the Newari language of the Newars of the Kathmandu valley).
Mohani is the Newari name for the local version of the widespread South Asian harvest festival dedicated to Goddess Durga, which in Nepal and generally elsewhere in South Asia is called Dasain.
Devi is considered the Divine Mother Goddess who liberates the suffering people from the miseries of Evil. The longest, most auspicious and joyous time of year, Dasain is celebrated all over the country by all castes and creeds of both Buddhists and Hindus during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon in late September or early October.
By this time the monsoon rains should have been over and the rice harvest been completed. The weather is pleasant - neither hot nor cold. The sky is clear and blue. The cool wind blows. This is the most favourable weather for flying kites. The kite-flying season lasts for a month.
Tradition and Social Belief
One tradition holds that kites were invented by Archytas of Tarentum, a Greek scientist in the 5th century BC, but they have been in use among Asian peoples from time immemorial.
The sport of kite-flying has long been a national pastime of the Thais, Japanese, Chinese, Malayans, Indians and Nepalis. The tradition of kite-flying has been in practice from time immemorial in Nepal.
One of the social beliefs of this tradition is that it sends messages to the gods to remind them not to send any more rain. Elderly people believe that this pastime brings prosperity to the family and that it is a means of contacting and honouring dead ancestors, and of guiding recently released souls to the heaven.
The Nepali kites are the malay. The malay, a two-sticker without a tail, has its sticks of equal length crossed and tied with centre of one at a spot one-seventh the distance from the top of the other.
A bridle attached to the kite has two legs, one from the top of the diamond and the other from the lowest point, meeting a little below the crossing of the sticks. A string pulled tight across the back of the cross stick bows the surface making the kite self-balancing.
The specialty of the Nepali kites is the lokta hand-made paper out of which they are made.
The Nepali Style of Kite-flying
Kites are best flown in open spaces where the wind blows steadily and close to the ground, but in Nepal kites are flown from the roofs and roof porches of the houses.
The style of kite-flying in Nepal is different from those of other countries in South Asia. To fly a kite in the Nepali mode you need a big reel with two spools on either side.
The reel has a round smooth stick coming out from each centre of the spools. Either end of the stick snuggles between your thumbs and index fingers. You reel in the string of a kite by patting the two spools clockwise. The reel must have about 6000 metres of string.You need someone to take a kite and walk some distance.You stand still holding the reel of which the string is tied to the kite.
The moment he throws up the kite into the air you pull the string that shoots it up and the wind catches it. The more string you reel out the higher it rises. Once the kite is air-borne you feel the force of pulling of the string from the reel you are holding. You can maneuver the kite by reeling in and reeling out the string. You can steer the kite the way you want.
Cutting is the Greatest Fun
The greatest fun of kite-flying is to cut the strings of the kites of the others.
Therefore the string is specially treated to make it sharp and abrasive so that your kite string wears out the strings of other kites. The paste of adhesive substances with powder of ground glass is coated on the string.
This paste is called manjha. The manjha string acts like a sandpaper. The game of each kite-flier is to cut the strings of the kites of the others with the string of your own kite by making your kite fly across the other kites. When your kite's string touches your opponent's kite string you let out the string from your reel as much as you can at the high speed until your string does not cut the other string by wearing it out.
The Nepali style of kite-flying is aggressive. The kite-fliers are not just content with flying the kites high up in the sky. They get satisfaction from bringing down the others' kites. Therefore the Nepali kite-fliers like the malay kites though simple they look but they are best designed for strategic purpose of cutting the strings of others' kites.
It is fascinating to watch the kite-flying during Dasain. All the roofs of Kathmandu are full of kite-fliers and they jump and shout 'Chet!' when they cut kites of one another. You would see big speakers on the roofs blaring out the greatest hits of Guns and Roses, Metallica, Michael Jackson, Kenny G, Kitaro, Spice Girls, the Hindi and Nepali film songs, the Nepali rock groups and so on.
They dance on the roofs while their friends are busy bringing the others' kites down.
For past fifteen years Nepal-Japan Friendship and Cultural Association under the auspices of the Embassy of Japan has been annually organizing Kite-flying Competition during Dasain.
The competitions include kite-fighting competition and designer kites that reflect the Nepali cultural heritage and Buddhist and Hindu pantheons. These competitions have encouraged a younger generation to make colourful designer kites and participate in the kite-fighting competition.
The Embassy of Japan organized an exhibition of Japanese traditional kites and tops on
October 6-15, 1998 at the Embassy Hall, Kathmandu for the first time in Nepal.
The exhibition had over 200 colourful kites of different sizes and designs.
Japanese kite expert, Mr. Masami Takakuwa of Japan Kite Association led and managed
this touring exhibition.
This exhibition provided an opportunity for the Nepali people who are fond of kite-flying to see traditional attractive Japanese kites.
International Kite Festival
Although no international kite festival has been organized in Nepal, two-member Nepali team participated in the 4th International Kite Festival held in Bangkok in l994 and the 9th and 10th Dieppe International Kite Festival held in France in 1996 and 1998. The workshops on making Nepali kites were also organized for school children during the both festivals.