Thursday, January 14, 2010

Flying High

Sankranti the harvest festival is a favourite of mine.  And largely because of kite flying.  I was an expert at it.  And to my surprise a couple of years ago, found that the skill was intact.

This year, weather was quite a dampner to the festivities.  Rain, incessant drizzle and cloudy skies coupled with exorbitant costs, must have prevented people from buying kites.  I found fewer kites in the sky. 

It is believed that kites were brought to India by the Chinese travelers - Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang.  Indian kites are called the fighter kites - simple paper and bamboo - with special thread called manja, that is sharp and used for fighting with other kites.  We made it at home many years ago - with a mixture of plant sap, ground glass and colour - that would be applied on ordinary thread to give it that 'cutting edge'.

There is a story about kite flying in ancient India. The rulers or the nawabs of Lucknow used to fly their kites from their palace rooftops with a small purse of gold or silver attached as an incentive for the others to try cutting down the kite to retrieve the precious contents. It is also rumoured that the nawabs were not one to give away their money so easily and so they would have their own men out in the street to ensure that they got their kite back, with the purse intact. 

As a youngster, it seems so cruel now, that there were times that I chased a couple of birds by taking a deep dive with my kite, swooping down on the unsuspecting creatures and frightening them out of their wits.

It could have been because of kites that were stuck in trees that we had unusual bird activity in our area.  Birds that were disturbed from their usual habitat were flying around, and I got to see many of them today.

and this one

and this bluebird

If anyone can identify these birds for me, I would appreciate that.

And for a birds eye view of the ground below, is Nicolas Chorier, a Frenchman who specialises in "kite photography".

Chorier makes 40-sq-foot kites from siliconised nylon and carbon or fibreglass rods. The camera sits in a cradle on a line beneath the kite. The camera cradle operates by remote control . Kite and camera are flown to the required height. Chorier carries the remote control on his shoulder and the video monitor around his neck. He walks and raises and lowers the kite for shooting angles.  He has taken some amazing pictures in India and brought out a book Kite's Eye View: India Between Earth and Sky.
 Jama Masjid -

and the Jodhpur fort

And yes, he did lose a camera, dropping it in the Yamuna river behind the Taj Mahal. It is quite a technique to take pictures with a remote control. But, I am sure the most difficult task  of the whole exercise would have been to get permission from the Indian government to take these pictures, considering the fact, that at ground level at most tourist spots, photography is either prohibited or at an additional cost.

Well, inclement weather it may have been for kite flying today, but not for the other festivites that are part of Sankranti.  The rangolis were there and so were the sweets.  And I hope the harvest is bountiful and the food prices come down as quickly as they shot up.


  1. Happy Pongal, Radha! The bird is the red-vented bulbul. I did a post on them. They nested in our garden.

    Will come back and read the rest.

  2. Happy Sankranti.

    That was a lot of information about kites. Thank you.

    I'm glad you mentioned Chorier. I chanced upon his book in one of the bookshops a while back and was fascinated by the technique. The photographs are breathtaking. And the technique ingenious!

    Amen on your prayers on price drops. :)

  3. Very lovely post with beautiful snaps. As a kid, kite flying needed no occasion.

    I had been to Jodhpur, but never got to see this beautiful view of fort.

  4. This is a very interesting post, Radha! The last bird is the Bul bul. I don't know about the other birds.

    I did not know the history of kites in such detail. About the Nawabs also!

    Chorier's photographs and the method he used to take them is fascinating. Thank you for the photographs.

  5. The kite history of India is very interesting. One extra dot (in the end) in the link address is giving problem to go to that link, Radha ('story' link). My son removed it and I read the story.

  6. Sandhya - thank you for identifying the bird. I hope to identify the others too in good time. And I have removed the extra dot. ( thank you for pointing it out)
    Rajesh, Nona - thank you.

  7. What an informative post! The pictures were beautiful, I loved hearing about you when you were younger and the history of kite flying! How you used to make your kite strings sharper with home made sap! So cool...interesting!

  8. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. It has been a pleasure to come here and to read your posts and to admire your beautiful photography.

    I have only flown kites once or twice in my life and enjoyed the experience. We have spoken of taking up the hobby again and now that I see your nostalgic post I am reminded once again that I want to do this.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and expanding mine.

  9. Happy Sankranti to you!

    That was interesting info on the book. I will look out for one. You captured some good shots of the birds.

  10. Belated Happy Pongal and Sankaranti Radha!

    Again another fabulous post with lovely picture..colors are so vibrant and its nice to know that some girls are also good at kite flying, in north mainly boys are able to do it:)

  11. Happy Makar-Sankranti, Radha!

    Great post! The photos of the birds are lovely.

  12. Nice post. Nice pictures. I like kyte flying. It is so thrilling. I used to do here in California beaches,.

  13. I am late in reading this wonderful post.The pictures of birds are very beautiful and the narration about remote controlled camera with the pictures it has taken has enriched the post.Thank you,Radha

  14. happy sankrati
    thanks for sharing info with pics.

  15. Can't be too sure, but possibly the Small Green Bee-eater, a Sunbird, and the last one, likely a Bulbul.

    Kite flying used to be fun surely. Back in the village when on vacation I would fly kites with kids from the village, standing on roof tops and competing with the eagles overhead.

    Many birds do get hit.

  16. Wow Radha I envy you your skill with the kite. It always looks wonderful, but I've had little opportunity to try my hand at kite flying.
    The pics are so good and the write up, interesting. It travels widely.


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