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Decrypting China’s role in Delhi’s kite-flying: A gaze at 2,000 year old tradition

Uncover the captivating history and significance of kite flying which ranges from ancient messengers to modern art.

Edited By : Mayank Kasyap | Updated: Aug 15, 2023 18:21 IST
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Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

New Delhi: The vibrant and colorful kites soaring in the sky evoke a sense of intellectual freedom. In Delhi, a unique tradition prevails – saluting the flag in the morning and celebrating freedom by flying colorful kites in the evening. Let’s delve into the sentiments of the locals and explore this captivating pursuit.

It is said that the history of kite flying dates back nearly 2,000 years. The practice originated in China, where kites were used to send messages. In India, kites were introduced by Chinese travelers Fa Hien and Hwen Tsang. Subsequently, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan organized a kite-flying competition on the banks of the Yamuna, challenging participants to fly the highest kite in the sky. Thousands participated in the event, and it marked the beginning of an annual tradition in Delhi – flying kites as a way of celebrating freedom and expressing joy. Over time, kite flying evolved into a popular sport, becoming an integral part of festivities in Old Delhi.

Sometimes a tale of love, sometimes a messenger in war

Historian Amit Ray Jain explains that with time, traditions undergo changes. In ancient times, kites were often used as messengers during wars. The practice was based on the principle that while the messenger’s life was not at risk, the message was effectively delivered to the enemy. It was an ingenious way to communicate directly with opponents.

2,000 years of evolution in kite flying

Chinese records mention that paper kites were flown around 549 AD. These paper kites were initially used as a means of sending messages. During the Middle Ages in China, kites were employed for measurement, testing the air, sending signals, and facilitating military communications. It is believed that the earliest Chinese kites were small and portable. As time progressed, kites underwent various changes and adaptations.

In modern times, kite flying has transformed into an art form, a sport, and a joyful tradition. The beauty of kites adorning the sky during special occasions is a visual treat that continues to captivate people’s hearts.

As we witness the colorful kites dance across the sky, let us cherish the rich history and significance behind this age-old practice that unites generations and symbolizes the spirit of freedom.

First published on: Aug 15, 2023 06:21 PM IST

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