Historians think that kites have been around for almost two or three thousand years.
"We like flying kites. And this time we made our own kites," says 12-year-old Shraddha. While there were workshops organised in the city like the one by Daira, there were others who decided to make their own manja-this one with plain silk thread. "The use of glass is harmful for birds. We saw pigeons with gashes last year and decided never to buy the commercial maanja. Kite-flying is about fun and it should not be harmful," says 14-year-old Rohan. So as the cityscape gets dotted with colourful kites,one wonders since when have they been flying kites.
The origins of kite-flying are lost in the mists of time, folklore and myth, but historians think that kites have been around for almost two or three thousand years. Facts regarding the place of origin are also clouded and uncertain, and it is generally accepted that the kite was invented in China. However, people in the South Sea Islands have been known as using it since very early times for fishing purposes. They would attach bait to the tail of kite, together with a sort of net, to catch the fish. Even today, some natives of the Soloman Islands in the Pacific Ocean use kites as fishing aid. From there on, the kite travelled to places far and wide!
As time went on, kites were incorporated into local customs in Asia. In Korea, it is a tradition to write the names and birth dates of children on the kites and then to fly them. The line is then cut to ensure a good year by taking all the bad spirits with it. In Thailand, each monarch had his or her own kite which was flown continuously during the winter months. They were also flown during the monsoon season by the people of Thailand to send their prayers to the gods.
In Japan, windsocks are used in the shape of a carp, a symbol of strength of will and fortitude. These windsocks are flown on May 5, Children's Day, as an inspiration to the children. Kites also come in various shapes such as dragons with long tails. Some are designed like lanterns and look beautiful aglow in the night sky. "We went to a kite festival and saw box kites," explains an excited Varun, a Std VII student as he returns home from an international holiday.