The ancient eastern city of Lahore marks the beginning of spring with the Basant carnival, rooftop soirees, garden parties and equestrian events. Lahorites and out-of-town enthusiasts don glamorous clothes, in the yellow and green of spring flowers blooming citywide, to bid farewell to the frosts and fogs of winter and usher in spring.
Nighttime kite-flying in the walled old quarter around the 16th century Badshahi mosque and Lahore fort opens the festival. Ancient mughal palaces throw open their doors for all-night parties to view the kites, illuminated by spotlights slashing the sky.
White paper kites shimmer in the night sky, diving and soaring as rival fliers joust in duels marked by battle cries of Pecha! and victory shouts of bo kata! Bursts of drums and trumpets mark the cutting of a kite's cord.
Men drape themseves in embroidered shalwar kameeze with matching ankle-length scarves, little boys strut in three piece suits, and women coat their hands with henna and stack their arms with bangles.
Pakistanis from across the country flock to Lahore for the festival, crowding the Islamabad to Lahore motorway to catch a glimpse of the flying paper fighting kites.
The Dark Side
Even such a joyous festival has a dark side, as hospitals invariably are packed with kiteflyers who fell off roofs and children who were hit by cars as they ran down the streets, their faces turned towards the sky to watch the kites. Quarters of the city are plunged into darkness when razor-sharp kite cords rolled in powdered glass or made of steel cut electricity wires.
That’s why Steel and glass-edged wires are banned to minimize accidents
SOME IMAGES FROM LAST YEARZ BASANT!
A man flies a kite at sunset after a day-long kite flying festival, locally known as 'Basant', in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore.
Pakistani children run to catch a kite during a kite flying festival, locally known as 'Basant', in the eastern city of Lahore.
A professional prepares special thread used in kite flying on a roadside pavement.
A shopkeeper gives the final touches to a kite decorated with a dragon and slogans to symbolise the Indian occupation in disputed Kashmir.
Pakistani kite lovers carry away a big kite decorated with the upcoming cricket World Cup 2003 slogan on a donkey cart.
Young Pakistani women dance to the beat of a drum during the colourful spring festival.
Pakistani kite loves try to catch a kite.
Lahore citizens buy kites on Basant, the spring festival, Basant fever is at its hight as people make last minute preparations to celebrate this spring festival.
Workers of Pakistan's tourism department display a huge kite on the eve of the traditional kite festival locally known as Bassant in the eastern city of Lahore
People are busy shopping for kites on the eve of Basant
Some Historical Facts of Basant
From mid-January to mid-February the clear blue skies over Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat in India, and Lahore in Pakistan, come alive with the gaiety and colour of paper kites – in all hues, shapes and sizes. Kite flying in the Punjab is associated with Vasant Panchami – the onset of spring. It is also commonly known as Basant. The yellow of mustard flowers and the Amaltas trees is the first colour to be sighted after the severe winters of the north. Traditionally, on this day- 5th of the lunar month of Magh – children and women wear yellow – and men folk in Rajasthan wear yellow turbans. Spring heralds new beginnings and the colourful kites in the sky are a statement of this joyous awakening. Basant had its beginnings as a Hindu festival but as different religions came to India they participated in the joy of the occasion and Basant became a truly secular festival – the kites in the sky know no boundaries. Many a musical raga and raagini have been inspired by Magh (Spring). Poets have penned romantic verses, and artists, both of the past and contemporary, have painted the Basant skies.
In Punjab, kite flying is a rooftop sport. The rooftops of inner cities turn into virtual arenas of kite flying competitions on Basant. In Rajasthan and Gujarat kite flying gathers a frenzied momentum on January 13, also celebrated as Makar Sankrant – the day the sun changes direction and starts to move towards the northern hemisphere. In Lahore it is a 24-hour spectacle – it pioneered night kite flying – using strong beams and white kites. Little wonder that Lahore is the official kite flying capital of Pakistan. It is where Basant is celebrated with unmatched passion and zeal. There is no official Basant day here – there is an entire Basant season of kite flying accompanied my rooftop dinners, dances and fun. It is a sort of Octoberfest, a local Mardi Gras or the Rio Carnival minus the revealing dresses. The streets, parks and the roof tops especially are filled with cries and cheers of "Bo Kata" or Kite down, followed by drums rolls.
In Jodhpur, the run-up to Makar Sankrant is celebrated as the International Kite Festival. Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur [ also the Chairman of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation] hosts it every year in the Umaid Bhavan palace lawns. About 75 fliers from 7 countries participate - with teams from Belgium, France, Hongkong, U.K., Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan and about 7 teams from Jodhpur and Delhi, Pune, Jaipur. Only in 1998 did the team from Hong Kong defeat the Jodhpur " Fateh Sagar Kite Club" [ score 4-2] In all the other years Indian teams have held the crown. The theme of the kite festival is "One-Sky-One World". This is very relevant in this age of confrontation . A sky without borders.
There are awards for the most creative kite, [Indian & foreign], best flying display, technological innovation, beauty & delicacy of design.
Lahore & Basant : A passionate relationship
Lahore’s centuries old walled city has become the official & unofficial center of Basant’s Patang Bazi. Some old havelis [villas] of Gowalmandi and Heera Mandi, in particular the "Barood Khana" Haveli or the old Gunpowder Villa near the old fort & Badshahi Mosque, have been renovated with great care by their owners -.Yusuf Salahuddin & Iqbal Hussain.
Multinationals companies [Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Emirates Bank, and Pizza Hut] have jumped in to participate and market their products via Kite flying as the ideal medium for marketing. Buy a Pepsi or a Coke and you get a free kite to fly with their logo during Basant. A Lahori jokes that Pepsi, Coke, McDonalds are battling for control of our air space. Meanwhile the Lahore High Court threw out a case saying that Basant was unIslamic. The parks [in particular the Race Course park] of Lahore are filled with kite flyers carrying their precious kites in their waterproof bags. The streets , parks and the roof tops especially are filled with cries and cheers of "Bo Kata" or Kite down, followed by drums rolls .
The French sent two teams to participate in 2001. One called "meteors" from Brittany and another from the school of fine arts from Aix Provence. Later a joint agreement was signed between the Lahore school of Fine Arts and the French school, with a documentary on the Basant being aired on a French TV channel. The Emirates Bank invited their 500 high net worth customers in a Basant bash on the rooftop of the Pearl Continental hotel on The Mall. Included was a music band called "Nexus" and a food festival including the candyfloss man for kids.
Kamran Lashari [ currently Director, Parks & Horticulture Society and a senior Civil Service officer] has been the major creative force in making this old Basant festival into a modern day business venture . The official venue for the event is the old city’s Delhi gate " Shahi Hamaam" [ or the Royal Bath] and the date was 17th February. The Chandigarh "Tribune" reported that about 10,000 tourists specifically came for the Basant event [ Jashne Baharan or Spring Festival ] in 2001 and generated about Rs. 8 billion [US $160 million] with employment for about 10,000 people. Special trains & flights were scheduled for Basant in Lahore .
The havelis and the roof top real-estate of the old walled city of Lahore have exploded in value as a result. Lahore, which was once renowned for its fashion and style, is beginning to recover its lost glory as the cultural capital of Punjab. The trend was started some years [around 1990] ago by a grand renovation of the old walled city under a World Bank Project. The Pakistan Government did much to implement and carry out this project successfully. Individuals living inside the walled city are proud of their history and the famous artist [National School of Arts] Iqbal Hussain renovated his haveli near the Badshahi mosque by converting his studio into an exotic "Cuckoo’s Cafe" where you can sample the inner city’s specialty foods.
Ahmedabad & Basant :
In India, Ahmedabad is the kite flying center. Ahmedabad is famous for its Textiles & Design center. The Gujarat state Tourism department has held the International Kite festival for the last 13 years .
[For relaxing and pure joy reading on Kite Fighting in South Asia read Professor [ at SUNY ] Tal Streeter’s Book "A Kite journey Through India" .1966.]
According to the Indian Express of January 20 , 2002, women form the bulk of the kite making community and it is centered around a few villages near Ahmedabad. The major village is Jamalpura, and others include Behrampura, Gomtipura, Kalupur. Each woman averages about 800 -1000 kites a day. They receive only 3 paisa per kite . That means about Rs. 30 [ about $ 0.75] per day.
There are about 500 kite making families and they work throughout the year except for one month during Basant. Mothers and daughters, all make kites. The large volumes do not translate into profits. The average family in Gujarat buys about 200 kites in the year. The profit is made by the middle man or retailer who sells a kite for Rs.4 and upwards , with some kites selling for Rs. 500 . The total turnover is in millions of Rupees annually and the supply cannot keep up with the demand . Perhaps the women kite-makers of Gujarat should combine to form a cooperative and market their kites through a website also.
The professional kite makers within the city have also started to look for stronger kite making fabric such as lightweight nylon. There is a kite museum in Ahmedabad run by a kite fanatic called Bhanu Shah.
Basant at Khawaja Nizamuddin’s Shrine- Delhi.
The legend of the 12th century saint Nizamuddin Aulia of Delhi has it, that he had been grieving the death of his nephew Taquiddin Nooh. His close friend and disciple Amir Khusro [ both are buried within the shrine of Nizamudin in Delhi] decided to cheer him up. Khusro met some village women on the road dressed up in yellow colors of the mustard that was in bloom at the time of spring. On finding that they were celebrating spring and offering flowers to their gods, Khusro also dressed himself in yellow and went with these women to Nizamuddin . Nizamuddin on recognizing Khusro started to smile. That started the rest of the disciples to sing Persian verses and offer flowers on the grave of Nooh.
The Basant festival is still celebrated in Nizamuddin’s shrine by a ritual collection of mustard flowers from a village in Harayana followed by offering the flowers to the shrines in Mehrauli, and Naseeruddin Chirag-e- Delhi.
"Aaj Basant manaley suhangan (let us celebrate spring my love),
Aaj basant manaley (let us celebrate spring),
anjan manjan kar piya (more put on your make -up),
lambay neher lagaaye (and decorate your long hair),
tu kya sovay neend maasi (you are still enjoying your sleep , wake-up),
so jaagay teray bhaag, suhagan ( even your destiny has woken up),
aaj basant manalay...; (today lets celebrate spring),
oonchi naar kay oonchay chitvan (you snobbish lady with arrogant looks) ,
ayso diyo hai banaaye; (such has God made you)
Shah-e-amir tohay dekhan ko, (the king amir is here to see you),
nainon say nain milaaye, (let your eyes meet his)
Suhagan aaj basant manalaay.." (Oh love, let us celebrate spring today) .
- Amir Khusro~ A poet from the Indo-Pak-Subcontinent
For those who want to post their opnions as a reply in detail:
This is a traditional cultural festival of the province of Punjab so I require your opinions keeping this in mind that we don’t disgrace anyone’s tradition in any manner! The opinions should be candid…I don’t care whether your opinions favor or oppose Basant but they should be straight from your heart; what do you feel about Basant(Spring) as an event !
Thankyou very much Ladies & Gentlemen for your precious time
Edited by Animal-Instincts, 07 February 2004 - 07:28 AM.