Skip to main content

Independence day kite flying in walled city of Delhi 'signifies' communal concord

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed* 

"Chali chali re patang meri chali re/ Ho ke badlon ke paar/ Ho ke dor pe sawar/ Chali chali re!" (My kite goes soaring, zooming in the sky, over the clouds, riding the string, higher and higher!) A kite, largely known as an aerial toy, covered with paper or fabric supported on bamboo strips and flown with a cord, has been capturing the imagination of one and all for centuries.
Why kites on 15 August? Since August 1947, the skyline along with the historic Red Fort, Nirankari Ground and Ramlila Ground, become abuzz with kites, infecting the whole city. Though a very old Purani Dilli passion, kite-flying has also been associated with the Independence Day, there is no question that the sport has been electrifying the Delhi’ites since time immemorial.
In fact, it was Khalifa Khaliq-uz-Zaman and Chacha Jumman of Pahari Bhojla from the walled city of Delhi who actually out of enthusiasm for the Independence on August 15, had announced in posters that immediately after the speech of Jawaharlal Nehru, there would be a kite flying feast at the Red Fort grounds as mentioned by the Paisa Urdu daily those days.
Kite flying in the walled city of Delhi also signifies communal concord between the two major communities living here — Hindus and Muslims. On the efficacy of the kite flying, Ahsanullah Chawla of Bara Hindu Rao states that Mirza Ghalib saw kite as a handy tool for a lover pining to meet his beloved.
In the old Shahjahanabadi days, a lover used to fly a kite and lower it on his beloved’s roof with a payam (message) on it. Incidentally, Ghalib himself made kites and flew them from his Gali Qasimjan haveli during the evenings and landed these on the roof of Chunna Jaan, the nautch girl who was his beloved.

Love couplets for sweethearts on kites

Khalid Anjum, a resident of Ahata Kaley Sahab, Blike many others, teats the season of kite-flying (April-September) in the Walled City of Delhi as lover’s season because he loves Farida who lives some streets away in Mohalla Baradari Sher-e-Afghan.
Every day at around six in the evening Khalid reaches his rooftop and takes out a charkhi (spindle) with dor (plain string) and manjha (sharpened string) spun around it and attaches a kite with a message like — Hum tum se juda ho ke mar jaayenge ro ro ke…(This distance and separation from you is bound to take my life).
For the kite lovers, Mohsin has been putting up an exhibition of even all the paraphernalia used in kite flying like saadi dor (white string), manjha (biting/ cutting string coated with powdered glass), charkhi (spindle), baaans (bamboo strips) and kite paper.
Zahid from Matia Mahal, is busy writing messages for his fiancĂ©e Zeenat in Pahari Imli — Aaja aaja, tu hei pyar mera… (My sweetheart! You are my love!). When asked about this trend of romance, boldly he says that the pinnacle of this lovers’ season of Purani Dilliwalas is the Independence Day — August 15! Most of his friends are busy doing that.
Even the young and bubbly girls are seen roaming around on their rooftops — at least safer places than some dingy corners in the inter-twining Old Delhi streets. These girls, equally buoyant and burning on the other side, do accept the message as the lover pulls down the kites with their hands.
Apart from common messages to meet at the nearby places or at metro stations, there are lines from Hindi films. Usually the girls play safe by not replying to the messages. Maybe a gesture with lovelorn eyes is made towards the place where the kite lover is!
Sometimes, the girls also accompany their friends from the mohalla (locality). The lover too is vigilant as to who the accompanying person is with his sweetheart on the rooftop. If it is her mother, father or brother, the lover better thinks to just indulge in pench (kite match) where he tries to cut the string of the other kite with his khinchai (pulling the string) or dhilai (letting the string lose). If he is successful in cutting the string of the other kite, he howls a huge “kataa!” (I have cut the string and won!)
If the times are unlucky for a lover, his kite is caught by the girl’s father or any other relative only to be ensued by reprimands or complaints to be lodged with the police. This may either put an end to a budding romance or make the impugned lover still more spirited and take the chance to the full and pay for consequences.
Kites’ are given glorious Urdu names. It’s a unique spectacle as the kites of all hues and sizes from all over India can be seen. Kite flying or patangbazi, like kabootarbazi (pigeon flying), baterbazi (goose fighting), happens to be one of the umpteen Shahjanabadi sports that somehow have survived despite hostile conditions. 
Various kinds of kites are — Tiranga, Pari, Chand-Tara, Glass, Ganderial, Kal Chura, Bhedia, Saanp, Maangdar, Addha, Pauna, Patial, Shakarpara, Punchhal, Angara, Nagdara etc.

Mughal princesses also flew kites

According to Mohd Mohsin Qureshi, vice president of the Delhi Kite Flying Association (DKFA), off and on, there have been kite-flying competitions in the months, July to September. In 1998, Vijay Goel, the then MP of Chandni Chowk, conducted a historic kite-flying competition at the Parade Ground, opposite the Red Fort.
According to Goel, the sport was a pastime of the Mughal princes and princesses, especially Roshanara. Many Mughal kings, nobles, nawabs and rajahs used to patronize the sport and they all gathered at various grounds for their matches as against the rooftops that are used today owing to paucity of open spaces.
Ashraf-ul-Akhbar of 1875 writes that Princess Zeb-un-Nisa was an expert who could cut the strings of umpteen kites in kite contests! Let’s hope that the bigwigs involved in the game this year will back up the issue of allotting the status that the beleaguered game needs so badly.
*Commentator on the themes of walled city heritage of Old Delhi, former chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad



'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Will Budget 2024 help empower city govts, make them India's growth engines?

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Arjun Kumar* Cities in India are envisioned as engines of growth. Any meaningful long-term vision for India would be incomplete without planning for the cities and quite rightly, urbanization is considered as one of the country’s top developmental challenges. Realization of full potential of cities depends crucially on their ability to provide ‘enabling’ environment especially in terms of sustained provision of a wide range of urban infrastructure and services.

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".