Kite fighting, sometimes known as kite
running, has been around for ages. It’s a vital part of the cultures of many
countries in Asia and the Middle East. As explained in our previous post on the
kites, different cultures have different forms of kite duels – from the
Micronesians to the Malay Annals, and from India and Pakistan to Afghanistan.
In this post, we’ll find out what fighter kites are and how exactly they are used in kite fighting. This will give you a better idea of how significant the practice is in different cultures and how it has evolved today. You’ll find out exactly what you need to know if you ever decide to take up kite fighting as a sport.
is Kite Fighting?
So what is kite fighting really? While different
countries may have their own variations, what we know as kite fighting today
typically involves kite cutting contests. The objective of these contests, as
the name suggests, is to cut your opponent’s flying line. Check out the
following video for a visualization of how kite cutting works.
For line cutting contests, they use fighter
kites with a special coated flying line known as a manja. The coating makes these lines abrasive so they can easily
cut their opponents’ flying lines. The exact rules may vary by geographical
region but the main concept is that you win if you successfully cut your
This type of kite fighting is practiced in
Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Malaysia,
Indonesia, and the Philippines. Chile, Brazil, and some islands in the
Caribbean also have the same objective in their kite fighting contests. In the
Caribbean, however, they attach sharp objects to their kite tails rather than
using a manja.
A different variation of the activity is a
capture or grounding competition. Here, it’s not enough to simply cut down your
opponent’s line with a manja. The
objective of this contest is to capture your opponent’s kite after grounding
You will typically have a friend or
teammate as a “kite runner” to capture the fallen kite in this variation of
kite fighting. After a kite has been cut, it does not belong to anyone until
the kite runner catches it and claims it.
In Japan, the objective of kite fighting is
not to cut down your opponent’s line but to force their kite down. Fighter kite
competitions in the U.S are very different from these common variations. These
competitions will see people competing through a display of skills and “line
touch” contests, although some kite festivals do have line cutting contests.
Issue with Kite Fighting
The main issue with kite fighting is that
it can be potentially dangerous even for those who aren’t participating. Anyone
who comes in contact with a manja could
get cut from the sharp line, causing serious injury and sometimes even death.
There have been incidents of motorists and passersby being injured by a manja.
In kite running too, kite runners could be
in danger of getting hit by passing vehicles as they attempt to capture a
fallen kite. That’s why kite fighting has faced the occasional ban in different
countries. In Afghanistan, the Taliban once banned kite fighting because they
considered it “un-Islamic.”
That said, kite fighting can be an extremely exciting and fun activity, but it’s essential to take the necessary precautions that you would take for regular kite flying. For instance, you should opt for open spaces without houses and roads nearby to minimize the risk of injury.
Did Kite Fighting Start?
There is no clear record of the exact
origin of kite fighting, but it is believed that the sport originated from
India. This would explain why kite fighting is so popular in the Indian
subcontinent, although there is no particular story to support this theory. Of
course, there may be unique stories to how it originated in different
For instance, kite duels in Micronesia
began through a mythology about two brother gods – Tan and Rango. The story
goes that the two brothers introduced humans to kites while they were carrying
out a kite duel.
Rango’s kite managed to fly really high in
the air but his brother’s kite got stuck in a tree. Now the Micronesians have a
kite flying event based off of this story and the objective is to fly your kite
as high up in the air as possible.
Fighting in Different Countries and Cultures
Kite fighting has become a vital element in
the cultures and festivals of different people, although it’s no more than a
leisure activity in other countries. In India, kite flying is a tradition that
marks the spring festival called Basant and has become a popular activity for
the Indian Independence Day as well. Red Bull has even started organizing an
annual kite fighting event in the country.
During Basant, the kite flying festival
would begin with a simple display and flying of kites. This would then be
followed by more serious kite fights, which is the main attraction of the
festival. In fact, people from all over the world visit India to witness the
kite fighting sessions during this festival. Basant is also celebrated in
Pakistan, mainly in Lahore, with kite fighting taking center stage even in this
part of the world.
Kite fighting is also part of the
Bangladeshi Shakrain festival and is mostly practiced by people in south Dhaka.
In Nepal, people engage in kite fights while celebrating Dashain, a variation
of the festival called Dashera in India. Japan also observes festivals that
involve kite fighting. The cities of Hamamatsu and Shirone typically witness
are Fighter Kites?
As the name suggests, fighter kites are the kites you use in kite fighting contests. Every country has its own variation of fighter kite, so there is no one set design which defines this type of kite. However, the most notable feature of a fighter kite is the manja flying line that’s typically coated with abrasive materials like crushed glass.
In kite fighting, you would ideally use
small and flat single-line kites rather than the dual-line stunt
kites that are popular in regular kite flying. The single line makes the
kite unstable and the pilot has to rely on line tension alone to control it. This
adds to the thrill and challenge of kite fighting.
These single-line kites are mostly made
from paper and wood, but carbon fiber and Orcon materials are becoming more
popular today. That said, most countries still use their traditional fighter
kites in kite fighting activities.
The Indian fighter kite is called patang and it resembles the traditional
diamond kite. The activity of kite fighting is called patang bazi. In Pakistan, there’s a similar fighter kite called guda. These two countries also have some
other variations of fighter kites, mostly defined by the shape and the size.
There’s the chagg, which is larger than the typical patang and slightly resembles an Afghani fighter kite. You can also find the tukkal, which has a distinct oval shape with pointed edges and a semicircular bottom. It is heavier and slower than the traditional patang but it is more likely to win a fight against the lighter and faster fighter kites.
In Brazil, people mostly use the traditional pipa, which is shaped like a pentagon, in kite fights. Some also use the simple diamond-shaped kites as well. Caribbean fighter kites, on the other hand, have a unique hexagonal shape with a tail that’s fitted with sharp objects.
Chilean fighter kites, volantin, are square in shape and made of bamboo sticks and light paper. What’s unique about the volantin is that it uses three support threads, which is very different from the single-line kites used in most countries. This extra support gives it more stability, so pilots can easily maneuver the volantin in the midst of a fight.
While the Japanese fighter kites, the
Nagasaki Hata, are very similar to the Indian patang, Koreans use a rectangular kite called the bang-pae yeon. It
has a bowed shape and a hole at the center of the sail. This kite usually needs
a larger spool than most Asian fighter kites.
Besides these common variations, other
countries have their own versions of fighter kites. Indonesia has the benang gelsan, the layangan Palembang, and the langayan
aduan. In Thailand, you can find the Chula
and pakpao, while Nepal has the lokta change. Japan has another
variation of fighter kites known as the rokkaku.
Pakistan possibly has the most variations
of fighter kites. In addition to the ones already mentioned earlier, it has the
do pana, the gum pana, the kashti, the
gulair, the kupp, the salara, the suit, the shistru, and the teera. And
of course, you’ll find the American fighter kite being used in North America.
Hopefully, this post would have given you a
clear idea of what is kite fighting and what are fighter kites. You would also
understand that although it is an exciting activity, kite fighting can be a
very risky sport. So you should be extra careful if you decide to take it up
and keep practicing your maneuvering skills to avoid any risky maneuvers that
could injure people.
Jacqueline Zote is a professional content writer with a focus area on lifestyle, recreational games, and all things fun. In her free time, she likes to go on food adventures and explore new recreational activities in the city.