Kites Soar High at the International Kite Festival – IKF 2018

The NID Ground at Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad came alive with thousands of kites at the inauguration of the 29th International Kite Festival – IKF 2018 on January 7, 2018. Myriad bright and vibrant colours and creative and innovative kite designs took to the skies, signifying unity in diversity filling the venue with a festive mood from dawn till dusk. The festival of Uttarayan, globally known as the Kite Festival marks the days in the Hindu Calendar when the winter begins turning to summer. Known as Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan, is typically a bright sunny day with brisk breeze to lift the kites aloft and is an integral part of Gujarat’s culture. The International Kite Festival is going to be celebrated from January 7 – 14, 2018 at NID Ground, Sabarmati Riverfront Ahmedabad where kite enthusiasts from across India and the world over come together.
The Hon’ble Governor, OP Kohli, the Hon’ble Chief Minister Vijaybhai Rupani, Hon’ble Dy Chief Minister Nitinbhai Patel, Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Forest, Tribal Development, Women and Child Welfare Shri Ganpatsinh Vasava and other esteemed dignitaries were present at the inaugural ceremony of IKF – 2018. There were over 535 kite fliers, 96 of them from 18 different states across India, including many teams from across South India and 149 kite fliers from 44 countries and over 290 from different parts of Gujarat. The ceremony began with lighting the lamp and surya namaskar by school students followed by kite flyers from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UK, US, Vietnam and others parade┬áthe ground as part of the ceremony. Gujarat Tourism also organised other activities like a craft fair and workshops like origami, kite making, theme painting and calligraphy to add to the festivities.
Besides the festivities, IKF also generates employment in the state and boosts the the overall socio-economic status of the state. Figures from the 28th International Kite Festival reveal that the kite industry earned around 572 crores and 28,200 people were employed during the year and 99,700 were employed during the festive days, helping the economy to earn over Rs 282 crores. The number of tourists increased to 448 lakhs in 2016-2017 helping generate employment in tourism and hospitality sectors. Sasan Gir also attracted over 500,00 visitors.
The city of Ahmedabad has been hosting the International Kite Festival as part of the official celebration of Uttarayan, bringing master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to demonstrate their unique creations and wow the crowds with highly unusual kites since 1989. In the past years, master kite makers from Malaysia have brought their wau-balang kites, llayang-llayanghave come from Indonesia, kite innovators from the USA have arrived with giant banner kites, and Japanese rokkaku fighting kites have shared the skies with Italian sculptural kites, Chinese flying dragons, and the latest high-tech modern wonders. A master kite maker and famous kite flyer Rasulbhai Rahimbhai of Ahmedabad trains of up to 500 kites on a single string have come to be a classic attraction.
There’s a festive fervour across the state as everyone takes to the rooftops and roadways to fly kites and compete with their neighbours. Kites of all shapes and sizes are flown, and the main competition is to battle nearby kite-flyers to cut their strings and bring down their kites. For this, people find their favoured kite-makers who prepare strong resilient kite bodies with springy bamboo frames and kite-paper stretched to exactly the right tension. The kites are attached to a spool (or firkin) of manja, special kite-string coated with a mixture of glue and glass to be as sharp as possible for cutting strings of rival kites. Production of kites and kite supplies can be seen on the streets of Ahmedabad beginning in November, to get ready for Uttarayan, and nowhere more so than in Patang Bazaar, the special kite market that appears in the old city. For the week preceding the festival, it is open 24 hours a day for all kite lovers to stock up for the festivities. The entire families gather on the rooftop, special foods like laddu, undhiyu or surti jamun are prepared and friends and neighbours visit each other for group kite-flying fun.