It was one man's dream that saw the creation of the Kite Museum in Ahmedabad. Housed under one roof is all you wanted to know about kites.

Kites that look like insects, fish and birds are some of the many interesting models at the Kite Museum in Ahmedabad. The museum will be celebrating its 27th anniversary on February 26.

Housed in the Sanskar Kendra, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) building that was designed by Le Corbusier, the Kite Museum is the brainchild of Bhanu Shah.

“From his childhood, his father was passionate about kites. He visited Patang Bazaar at Kalupur before Uttarayan every year to buy aesthetically designed kites. He also participated in international kite festivals. The collection was varied and he decided on a museum,” says his son Urjit Shah. Now a resident of New Zealand, 77-year-old Bhanu Shah was the founder-director of the museum till recently. The museum is run by AMC now.

Artistically framed kites with figures of Nehru and Gandhiji, a collage of miniature kites and those with abstract patchwork stand out in the well-lit gallery, as also kites from other parts of the world. Bhanu Shah has been elementary in bringing the international kite festival to Ahmedabad and also in popularising Indian fighter kites across the world, says Urjit.

“He collected data from various sources and prepared the panels for his museum. He spent his whole life on kites,” adds Urjit. The information-rich collection of historical panels, models, miniature paintings and information makes this museum top the must- visit list.

Kites were variously used for aerial photography and war, as well. Chronicling these is an illustrated wing of the museum. Cameras mounted on kite, and lantern kites used for signalling are some of the lesser known facets about kites the museum has to offer. Kite flying will surely take a new meaning after a visit to the museum.

How it all began

If you wanted to know how it all began, a panel here traces the history of kite-flying to China in the second Century BC. The first kite was a square shaped structure made with soft bamboo sticks, silk and paper featuring pictures of heroes and stage artists. Similarly, pictures and notes throw light on the other regions of Asia where kite-flying developed as a popular sport. Miniature paintings of Indian rulers flying kites from their terraces depict patronage of the nobles the game received.

The museum also presents an exhaustive history of kites and kite-flying in Korea, Malaysia, US and other regions of the world. Life-like figure kites from Malaysia, carp kites from Japan, ‘Flying Geometry' from Spain, ‘Stairway to Heaven' by Eiji Ohasi and the architectural sculpture in the air by American artist Tom Vant Sant are artistic expressions using kites as a medium.

In culture

Kites, one finds, have a significant place in culture in various parts of the world. For instance, in Japan, kites are known to connect earth and heaven. Traditional kites like the ‘yakko' are flown by children while ‘tongari' is popular with the adults and is said to bring fortune, good health and protection. Panels showcasing a wide collection of Japanese kites are worth a watch.

In science

Another special section on man-lifting and levitor kites takes you through a fascinating phase of history when flying was a dream. Many experiments were conducted to see if people could fly using kites. Baden Powell came up with his ‘man-lifting' kite in the 1890s so did Marconi with his levitor kite in 1901. Hargrave's box kite design came handy in experiments conducted in this direction. More flying machines inspired by kites came with Lilienthal's glider and Le Bris's bird form glider. Photographs of these kites with literature are found in the gallery.The Kite Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Take a notebook and pen for one. Watch a short film on kite flying while at the museum.

Keywords: Kite Museum