Come January, the skies will be filled with colourful, varied-paper kites of all sizes in preparation for the harvest festival of makar sankranti. The festival officially heralds the spring season's arrival and is the equinox's time. It is perhaps one of the few Indian festivals celebrated as per the Gregorian calendar. Makar sankranti is also known as lohri and maghi in north India, uttarayani in Uttarakhand, shishur saenkraat in Kashmir, khichdi parv in Uttar Pradesh, pongal in Tamil Nadu, makara sankramana in Karnataka, bhogali bihu in Assam, poush sankranti in West Bengal, and uttarayan in Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
In Mumbai, the festival is celebrated with no less fervour than in the rest of the country, and proof of this is the Patang Galli in Dongri Imamwada, south Mumbai. When you are here, realise that you are deep in one of the oldest parts of the heart of Mumbai. The locus of the Khilafat Movement in India, Dongri has seen it all, from the high culture of Sadaat Hasan Manto to infamous dons running tight-knit gangs. For now, it is famed for the delicious Ramzan treats of Mohammed Ali Road and the Patang Galli, to which customers flock from all corners of the city, eager to snatch the best deal on the maximum number of kites.
In Patang Galli, bedecked storefronts, more than 30 in number, do a brisk business in the wholesale of kites. The season which lasts from December to May, brings in money for the rest of the year. Some of the stores have been at it for decades, as their kites are carried away across Mumbai and the world, even to countries such as Switzerland. While most of the kites sold here are the ‘Indian fighter’ kites, you will find kites to suit every occasion, be it a religious festival, a wedding, or a birthday whether you opt for an ‘only display’ version kite or the real deal. While most kites here are made locally, fancy Chinese varieties are also available. Only try to buy a single kite here, for they are sold in packs of 20 or more. And anyone who has flown kites or been the helper of, or runner for, a patangbaaz (kite flyer) knows that one kite is just not enough—the more, the merrier. For the kite string, you may have to visit a different shop, or if a polished entrepreneur runs the store you are at, you may find a variety of kite strings at the same store. The cost of the string depends on its quality and the length bought.
Off To A Festive Start
Kite flying is now becoming big business, as private and government organisations organise kite flying festivals and competitions to boost local and cross-state/country tourism.
Most of the kite-flying festivities in India begin around the 15th of August, Independence Day, and then continue till late April. Some of the well-known kite festivals of the southern region are on the beaches of Gokarna and Karwar in Karnataka; The Telangana International Kite Festival in Hyderabad; and Mamallapuram, Chennai, which hosted its first edition of the Tamil Nadu International Kite Festival this year. The best-known kite festival is the International Kite Festival in Ahmedabad, conducted by the government of Gujarat. In Mumbai, there are frequent kite flying activities at some prominent spots such as the Kora Kendra grounds, Borivali; Shivaji Park, Dadar; Oval Maidan, Churchgate; Priyadarshini Park, Malabar Hills; and Juhu Chowpatty, Juhu.
How to get there:
By local train: On the Central and Harbour lines of Mumbai Suburban Railway, disembark at Sandhurst Road station, hail a cab to Dongri kite centre or Mughal Majid.
By bus: There are several buses to Dongri from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT).
By cab: From CSMT, it is a 12-minute cab ride.