The Uttarayan festival or Makar Sankrati is the time when you see long-tailed colourful kites fluttering in the clear blue sky. Kite fighting and kite running are only secondary attributes to the prime pleasure of flying a kite.
Catch it as it falls
Kite running has been popular in Afghanistan from the 14th century onwards. This makes kite flying ( gudiparan bazi — the competition of flying dolls) a different experience. Here, the sport echoes the national spirit of pride and honour, and it is enjoyed by men and women, old and young alike.
Almost every Friday evening, people fly kites. But, it is winter that is considered the ideal time because of the strong winds. Each locality ( kochagis ) has a champion ( sharti ) kite fighter and kite runner. With eyes fixed on the sky, the kite runner estimates beforehand which kite would most likely lose the competition ( jung ). He then calculates the direction of the wind and makes his way to where the kite may land.
No one snatches a kite from any kite runner. Girls can only form a part of the audience. While poverty compels kite runners to often trade their hard earned prize, they love to display it in their living rooms till the next winter tournament. The undefeated kite in the tournament is also displayed as an honour ( sahar ). Such victory calls for a party for friends and relatives to boast about the sahar .
Kite flying was banned during the Taliban regime, from 1996-2001, as they believed the culture to be unsupported by the standards of their creed.