Kathmandu:

The festival season is here and there is an excitement and anticipated in the air. Shopping has started and the markets are packed. But the exhilaration just does not end on the streets — the sky too is enveloped in the festivities with children of all ages flying kites dotting the blue firmanent with colors and shapes fanciful. And kites soar with the wishes of people who have been waiting for Dashain.

Centuries old tradition

Kites were invented by the Chinese over 2,000 years ago from where it spread to other countries. The invention of the kite helped to arouse the dream of humankind to fly and led to the invention of the airplane.

During the later 19th and early 20th centuries, kites were sometimes used for hoisting military observers into the air so that they could observe the position of enemy forces. With the use of paper and silk, which were invented in the ensuing centuries, kites were produced in increasing numbers, not only for military use, but also for recreational purpose by civilians.

In Nepali sky

It is hard to trace the time when kite flying started in Nepal, but every Dashain, people of every age and especially children eagerly participate in kite flying and friendly games of cutting the kite thread widely known as Chet.

One of the most popular beliefs among the people is that the kite is used to send a message to the gods to request them to stop the rain so that everyone can celebrate the festival of Dashain in warm weather. Some also believe that this tradition brings prosperity to the family and that it is a means of contacting with and honouring dead ancestors, and of guiding recently released souls to the heavens.

Pratap Man Shrestha runs the seasonal family business of selling kites in Chikamugal, near Maru Ganeshthan, and has been continuing the trend his father started.

“The shop was first established in the 50’s, and since then we have been continuing the business every Dashain. As this is seasonal we can manage this easily without hampering our regular business,” says Shrestha.

Sunder Man Manandhar of the Sagar Kite Centre at Kalimati shares a similar story. One of the biggest wholesalers providing kites and lattai (the wooden around which the thread is wound to fly kite) was started by his father in the 50’s.

“We start to sell the products prior to Indrajatra as people begin flying from then, and continue throughout Ashwin,” says Manandhar.

Changing trends

Previously stores use to sell handmade kites made of Nepali paper, but it has been decades since the Indian kites took over the handmade products providing paper kites in bright and vibrant colours. “We usually get kites from India, and for last 10-15 years plastic kites too have invaded the market,” says Satya Narayan mamandhar who sells kites at his shop in Ason.

Not only Indian, but Chinese kites designed as mythological creatures and insects too are available in a great number around town.

Earlier glass powder was available to make the kite thread strong to cut other kite threads during friendly matches with neighbours, today readymade glass-coated threads are available making it easier for kite lovers.

Though children are their major customers, girls and elders also make a beeline for kite shops after Ghatasthapana, say the two.