Lockdown brings kites back to Lucknow skies

Amrit Mohan

Lucknow, May 8 (PTI) Confined to their homes due to the coronavirus lockdown, bored Lucknowites have suddenly found a passion for kite flying, adding a good dash of colour to their city’s skyline.

More so in the old city areas of Chowk, Wazirganj, Thakurganj, Rakabganj, Yahiyaganj, Aminabad and Nakhhas, where it is easy to buy kites and spools of thread.

'The sky is so clear these days,” says Mohammed Hussain, who is in his 80 and has grandchild Iqbal by his side.

'The lockdown has pushed everyone indoors. But my rooftop is there, open to all who love to fly kites,' he tells PTI.

'In the good old days, kite flying was an addiction. Alas, no longer now,” he says, complaining about video games, mobile phones and computers which turn children into couch potatoes.

Once a traditional sport, kite flying is seen these days mostly during festivals like Makar Sankranti in January, Basant Panchami in February and Jamghat, the day after Diwali. Kites are also flown during the annual Lucknow Mahotsav.

Over the years, their look has undergone a big change, Hussain says.

They now come in shapes of birds, animals, insects and cartoon characters like Chhota Bheem and Spiderman.

'Kankawwa', the Lucknow style of kite in the form of wings of a bird, was perfected during the days of the nawabs. It is quite heavy and tests the skills of the kite flyer.

Kite flying was a sport, particularly among the nobility, during the time of the Mughals. And the nawabs of Lucknow had their kites trimmed with gold and silver.

In “patang baazi', kite flyers aim to snag and cut the strings of other each others’. Sometimes, there is betting between teams competing in these aerial dogfights.

Children – when there is no lockdown, of course – wait for a kite to fall and take home as a trophy.

Yakub Khan, a kite-seller in Nakhhas area, says the fighter kites are usually smaller in size, made of thin paper and diamond shaped, for greater manoeuvrability.

While a “patang” is the common kite, “guddi” is the tall one with a small tail, he explains, proud of his knowledge in the field.

'Making a kite requires great accuracy and care, it is an art in itself,' he says. Khan also claims skill in making high-quality threads.

'Sadda' is plain cotton thread, 'manjha' the lethal cotton thread coated with powdered glass, good to cut the strings of other kites.

Another piece of vital is equipment is the wooden spool – traditionally made of bamboo splits, wooden discs at each end and protruding sticks as handles – which is deftly manoeuvred in a kite fight.

'The game of yesteryears has again come alive, thanks to the lockdown,' Yakub says.

Another old-timer Waris Mian says history has it that Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula's kites were decorated with gold and silver trimmings, and in the time of Amjad Ali Shah the “guddi” became popular.

The origin of the kite is disputed, but it is widely believed to have been in China.

In Indian literature, it is mentioned in the poetry of the 13th century Marathi saint-poet Namadev, and later in “Ramcharitmanas” of Tulsidas, who writes about Hanuman retrieving Lord Ram's kite that had flown to Indralok. PTI AM SMI DIV ASH ASH