Lucknow's love affair with kites is an age old one. Patang Bazi has for long, been so much more than just a sport for the people of Lucknow, we know it as one of our many 'shaukh'. The Nawabs are known to be a flag bearer of kite-flying, who had a huge contribution to the modern sport, that has the same charm as years ago.
The Coronavirus lockdown has increased its popularity again and people associated with the business of 'Patang Baazi' has seen a tremendous growth in the last few months. Hence, we thought the love story between Awadh and Patang Bazi needs to be rehashed. So, here's reminiscing the sport of kite flying through the rose-tinted glasses of a proud Lucknowi.
Patang ki Kahani
Kites have been an inseparable part of the culture and the lifestyle of the people of Awadh; though, the kite found its genesis in China. It is widely believed that kites were a leisure activity that was hugely enjoyed in the Asian country. Kites of various shapes and sizes were floated in the sky, for their aesthetic and beauty, yet kite flying was never a sport.
Via the silk road that brought culture, people and traditions to India, the soaring kite found its way to Dilli, from where it travelled to Oudh. It is believed that the then Nawab of Oudh, Asad-ud-Daulah was extremely fond of kites. It was he who helped change the Kannkawwa kite, which was made with a full sheet of paper and shaped like a bird's wing.
This kite was changed into an aerodynamically sound, lighter version called the Pauntawa, (made with a 'pauna' or 3/4th sheet of paper) which has been the standard ever since. It is the Pauntawa which is used by professional kite flyers to this day.
Manjha, Saddi & Kanna: Understanding the Patang
Every kite has a few basic elements that deciphers the difference between a good one and an average kite. First comes the sheet of paper it has been made with, ornamental kites can be made after gluing together several sheets of paper, but a fighter kite used for sport, hardly ever uses more than one paper for the body of the kite.
The tadda is the spine of a kite which needs to be flexible or the kite would not stand the wind pressure. While the shoulder of the kite is called kang, which was something that the Nawabs changed, from two to one. The shoulder which was once more broad was also pulled in and made more round to help the kite steer in different directions.
Then comes the kanna, which is a set of threads that is tied to the kite, which is connected to a cotton thread called saddi. But the most important part about the kite will have to be the manjha, the thread held in hand and used to cut other's kites.
The Manjha is sharpened by coating it with an accoutrement of things, including ground up glass, rice starch and even egg whites. This coating ensures that the thread is sharp enough to cut the another's kite without much issue. Manjha makers can still be found in Lucknow's Bawarchi Tola near Medical College and 'dor sootne wala adda' in Daliganj.
Patang and Patang Bazi hold a special place in Lucknow's heart. Kites are not just flown around for fun but tournaments which have come to become an inseparable part of Lucknow's pristine culture. So this week, visit the streets of Chowk to find yourself a kite that best suits your needs and fall in love with the leisurely activity of Patang Bazi once more.
Let the child inside you find solace in a kite that soars the sky, fighting the sun and braving the winds.