Basant in Lahore
Another year without the festival that defined Lahore
Most people speak of kite flying in Lahore with little knowledge of its history. Some put it to being centuries old, others think of it as a relatively recent phenomenon. The truth is that the beginning of kite flying in Lahore is not recorded anywhere. You have to pick up bits and pieces from here and there to build a still-hazy picture.
To go back to its history, we need to first analyze first the ingredients needed for kite-flying. We need of bamboo for the ‘shateers’, and we are told that in olden times those bendable bamboos only came from Burma. Then we needed a special kind of light tissue paper that is called ‘guddi kaghaz’ here that was only made in two countries: England and Germany. Therefore it is a safe guess to make that these two things arrived here with the British in 1849 AD when they formally took over the control of Lahore.
Then for the ‘dore’ we needed strong but thin string, and that coated thread was never made here. It was made by J & P Coats (English firm known as sangal maarka in local parlance) and Goeringer (German firm known as hiran maarka). Both were not only excellent, but also affordable. Later on we also had string from the English firm, Oxley. Then we needed fine glass, not the kacha sheesha made here. Imported alcohol bottles were used for this purpose and then processed to turn into powdered glass. To roll it into maanja, or string ready for kite-flying eagle eggs were put in the mix. The resultant ‘dore’ was so good it only cut kites, not fingers.
We see miniature paintings of kites roughly dating to the last period of the 18th century. In these depictions there is a calmness about the kite-flying proceas. A couple are making love, embracing and also flying a kite in the air. This kite is made of cloth, not paper and there is no concept of ‘pecha’ there. A pecha of course is when two kites tangle with each other, resulting in the cutting of the string of one, upon which the victor shouts the words ‘Bo-Kata’, and blows trumpet-horns.
This fun-loving event, source of happiness for the rich and the poor has now been eliminated from our lives, so much so that our children today find our tales of Basant as remote and fantastical as the paintings we present here.
Gumshuda Lahore does not detail anything about the artists nor who exactly the protagonists of these paintings are. If any of our readers can cite an authentic source, it would go some way in adding to our collective knowledge about our past.
Editor’s note: The pictures and some of the text in this blogpost has been taken with permission from the Facebook page, Gumshuda Lahore. The page does not detail anything about the artists nor who exactly the protagonists of these paintings are. If any of our readers can cite an authentic source, it would go some way in adding to our collective knowledge about our past.