Nepal is the only place where a person can witness or compete in a kite dogfight (a combat that needs wits, skills and enthusiasm) and live to tell the tale. Kite flying in Nepal is seasonal and is associated with Dashain, which is celebrated during the bright lunar fortnight, ending on the day of the full moon, around late September or early October. There is a belief that flying kites are like sending messages to Indra – the god of rain, to remind him not to send rain anymore and that it brings prosperity to the flyer.
Kite flying in Nepal is different from those of other countries in South Asia and perhaps the world. We use a reel with spools on both ends and a smooth stick extends out from each end of the spools. The string to fly the kite is actually treated with sharp and abrasive substances called Manja. This paste enables your kite to wear out the string of the opponents as it acts like sandpaper when the kites are interlocked with each other. Each contestant or flyer has his own magic formula to make his/her string stronger. Powder of broken glass is popular and is sometimes cooked with ladyfingers, squash and substances that are sticky. The objective of every kite-flyer is to cut loose the strings of other kites and stay flying. The style adopted is aggressive to some extent but is very entertaining and rewarding at the end of a flying day.
One needs to watch out for pirates with mandalis while kite fighting. You may be so busy concentrating on the dogfight that you don't notice a surface-to-air mandali dart out of a neighbourhood roof, snare your string and capture your kite (and your enemy's too).
The earliest written account of kite flying comes from about 200 BC when Chinese General Han Hsien flew a kite over the walls of a city he was attacking to measure how far his army would have to tunnel to reach beyond its defences. Knowing this distance his troops reached the inner city, surprised their enemy and were victorious.
It is believed that kite flying was eventually spread by traders from China to Korea and across Asia to India. Each area developed a distinctive style of kite, flying techniques and the cultural context in which to fly them. Thus, we don't know whether kite flying came to Kathmandu from the north or the south.
Choosing a kite is an art in itself. The Nepali kites have no tail, two sticks of equal lengths are crossed and tied in the center. A string pulled tight across the back of a cross-stick bows the surface making the kite self-balancing. A specialty of Nepali kites is the lokta, hand-made paper, out of which they are made.
Some of the Nepali Kite Names -
Babache : kite with bottom half of a different colour
Chakchake : kite with attention deficit disorder
Dariwal : kite with symmetrical pattern on bottom left and right
Dharke : kite with stripes
Gwankh : paper weight to balance kite
Lato Changa : idle Kite
Puchhare : kite with tail
Tauke : kite with pattern on top quadrant