What should the first blog post of the year be about? Surely, something uplifting and beautiful, so as to bring good vibes to the New Year. Well, last summer in Bali, I discovered that not only Balinese were very enthusiastic about cockfighting (Cockfighting in Bali) but they have another (less bloody) passion that is literally uplifting and certainly beautiful: kite-flying.
Every year toward the end of the summer when the winds are favorable, Bali holds a Kite festival where giant kites are made and flown by teams from surrounding villages (and now international teams also participate). And as with nearly everything else in Bali, there is a religious aspect to this festival. The kites flown up the sky are intended as a way to deliver prayers to the Hindu gods in the hope of an abundant harvest.
I was not in Bali during the festival but rather in the weeks leading up to it, so on a Saturday afternoon while at Sanur beach where the festival is held I was able to see some of the competitive teams practicing their skills. There are mainly three types of kites flown, two of which I was able to see. They are both magnificent. My favorite is the one called Janggan (the dragon) as it has a dragon-shaped carved head. Its most impressive feature is the broad flowing cloth tail that can reach more than 100 meters in length. In the air, it is a magnificent sight. The other one, the Bebean is even larger but not as long, and looks like a “broad-mouthed, split-tailed fish”. I cannot imagine the work involved in building one of these, but I know a lot of time was spent by Balinese young and old in the community centers (banjar pavilions) of the participating villages. Though these two traditional kites were extremely impressive, the one that won my heart was made by a young boy from a garbage bag.
What I had not realized, however, during this half-day at the beach, is how widespread kite flying is in Bali. By going to other beaches near the rice paddies, one is able to see 40-50 kites being flown by young and old almost every late afternoon. The kids or young men (it seems to be primarily but not only a male activity) are running, laughing, falling, and starting again until dusk forced them to leave. The last image shows a kite that says: “I’m lucky born in Bali” It is clear that they mean it.
In this New Year, may we all soar as high as kites in Bali.
Happy New Year to all,