Memos from Asia

Basant: Banned Kite Flying Festival in Pakistan

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Basant is a grand festival of Pakistan celebrated in the spring season alternatively known as Jashn Baharan i.e., the festival of spring. Basant festival is celebrated in the month of February, mostly in the Punjab region of Pakistan and India. People celebrate this festival by flying kites and welcoming spring.

Colorful paper kites on sale at a shop in Empress Market in Karachi.

These kites have different names and vary in colors and designs. The thread to which the kites are attached is called dorr, which is embedded with cut glass. The dorr is sharp and is used to cut the threads of other kites.

When a person successfully cuts the dorr of other kites, and the kites fall down, that person is considered the winner and the team celebrated by singing and dancing.

Indian spool, charkhi, used in the sport of kite fighting. The thread shown here is the nonabrasive or cutting sadda thread.

Lahore and Local Businesses

In Pakistan, Lahore is the city that is known for celebrating the Basant festival. Lahore is a vibrant city in Pakistan, and thousands of tourists visit the city during the Basant Festival. People have special arrangements for this day by wearing yellow. Girls prepare special traditional dresses with matching bangles and khussas (traditional shoes). Boys buy kites and dorr on this special day. The sky is filled with colorful kites, and people can be seen dancing at the beat of the dhol (traditional drum).

The most interesting part is that Basant Festival is celebrated on rooftops. The roofs of houses are close enough, so when flying kites, people jump from one rooftop to another in order to keep their kites flying and trying to cut the threads of their competitors.

The festival is also a source of income for different businesses. The kite and thread makers earn their income through Basant Festival. Many people rent their hotels to thousands of tourists from all over the world who come to celebrate the festival.

Walled City, Lahore, Pakistan. Beautiful Bazar in walled city Lahore.

Prohibited Festival

Overheated local residents began using string made of metal or mixed with fiberglass, and a number of accidents occurred.

In the last few years, the Basant festival has been banned by the government of Pakistan. This was mainly because there were many causalities and deaths caused during flying kites. It is believed that many people started using chemicals in the dorr that was harmful.

Additionally, the sharp threads took many lives when it cut through the throat. Many people fell off from rooftops while chasing their kites, thus resulting in injuries or deaths.

Therefore, the government decided to ban the festival because happiness should never be at the cost of even one precious life.

The state government also banned the manufacture and sale of kites, and as spring approached, it became common practice for the police to regulate illegal kite flying. Dealers have disappeared from the city, many artisans have been forced to change jobs, and the industry has gone underground.

But still, there are still residents who enjoy flying kites. According to local media, around 4,000 people were detained in the state capital Lahore alone in 2019, and many kites flew in the city this year as well.

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