Independence Day in India is synonymous with kite flying. The lanes of Delhi, especially the alleys of Old Delhi, are dotted with pop-up stores selling vibrant kites with imagery depicting freedom and India's rich culture. As we enter our 77th year of independence and celebrate Independence Day 2023, the tradition of kite flying continues to colour the Indian skies, with exclamations of "Ayi Bo" adding to the festive gusto.
Not many people know that the legacy of flying kites on Independence Day originated in pre-independence days. The year 1927 saw freedom fighters calling out the Simon Commission to leave India with slogans like "Go Back Simon." Later, the relentless outcry materialised into inked slogans on kites. The passive protest was an archival event in India's freedom tales and is practised with the same fervour even today. However, the dynamics of the festival have now evolved into a culmination of regional festivities.
Take a look at some of the popular kite-flying activities held in different parts of the country:
The lanes of Old Delhi get a spirited touch with echoes of "Desh Rangeela" and other patriotic songs. The loudspeakers installed at the alleyways are a way to beckon people to join the celebrations while enjoying the tricoloured snacks served at the various eateries and homes.
Those interested in flying kites on Independence Day often head to Syed Mohiuddin alias Bhai Mian's Diamond Kite-Flying Club, a quaint shop selling kites exclusively since 1970. The shop is one of Delhi's oldest shops selling all varieties of kites. More than kites, Mian's passion for the sport compels buyers to visit his shop. Fondly called "Godfather of Patang Baazi" by his neighbours, he has reportedly flown about 1,187 kites on a single string, and his passion for kites has taken him to several international competitions.
As we mark our Independence Day 2023 celebrations, kite flying continues to represent the bonhomie of communities. Not just Independence Day, the activity has become a favourite during North India's major festivals such as Makar Sankranti and Basant Panchami. Other than Delhi, cities like Lucknow, Bareilly and Moradabad celebrate the sport with a local touch. Like in Old Lucknow, a traditional kite flying festival called Jamghat is observed a day after Diwali. Bringing together people of all castes and communities on rooftops, Jamghat signifies communal harmony with beautifully crafted kites fluttering in the Lucknow sky. Witness kite flyers huddle to the banks of the Gomti River with scenes of "Patang Baazi" (kite-flying competition) amid loud cheers.
If you move towards the West, you are bound to hear loud calls of "Kai Po Che" on Independence Day. The saying is used by kite flyers, when they cut off their competitor's kite.
However, kite flying in Gujarat is more than Independence Day celebrations. The state holds Uttarayan, an international kite flying festival, to commemorate Makar Sankranti every year. Hosted in Ahmedabad since 1989, the festival gathers master kite makers and flyers from worldwide for the sporting event.