Authors: Ben Ruhe
Date Submitted: February 29, 2000
Article Type: Journal

Japan has its kite extravaganzas such as Hammamatsu. France presents an unrivaled panoply of the sport at beautiful seaside Dieppe in Normandy. But for sure brio the Makar Sankranti fetival throughout India, and in Jaipur in particular, on January 14 each year is hard to top. On this day, as the sun ascends for the first time into the northern hemisphere, millions of Indians mark a time of rebirth by taking to the rooftop terraces in their cities and towns to fly fighter kites equipped with ground glass cutting lines. The object is to slice another kite-any kite-out of the sky. It’s dawn to dusk free-for-all which must be seen to be believed. Kite fighting is the ultimate equalitarian, democratic sport. In Jaipur alone, it is estimated that upwards of one million people spend the day flying their darting little raptors. Manjha is the Indian word for the cutting line. Manjha mania is what occurs in Jaipur. Participating in the spectacle this year were foreigners attracted by the annual Jodphur-Jaipur Desert Kite Festival, beautifully organized by Ajay Prakash of Bombay, a travel agent and kite fancier. The week-long event begins in Jodphur, under the patronage of Maharaja Gaj Singh, and concludes in Jaipur with the mass fly there. Joining Europeans and Japanese this year was a contingent of five Americans, three of them from the Drachen Foundation in Seattle, led by administrator Ali Fujino. Among those on hand was sculptor and writer Tal Streeter of Verbank, New York.

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