Year 2000 Feted With 'Tangles' in the Sky: A Kite Heaven in the Desert of India

Tal Streeter
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There's something old and new in the wind!

Have you glimpsed them out of the corner of your eye, on the kite festival fields, flying in the skies over parks and beaches? Darting, spinning, bee-like butterflies might be a better description of the diamond shapes sparkling in the sunlight, changing their course, flitting here and there like playful butterflies. That all sounds nice and a pretty picture, too, but it's also an exciting, pulse-pounding experience.

These little kites dashing across the sky, they're calling them Indian-style, single-line sports kites in the United States. In Hindi, they're known as patang, which has come to be translated in the rest of the world as Indian-style fighter kites.

Kite fighting? The Indians insist it's not really fighting but simply Indian kite flying, and the game, the sport, the competition the Indians refer to as tangles, peych(tangle) uland(fighting). This aligns Indian-style kite tangles with the character of games of basketball and football in the U.S., soccer in Europe (and tennis, marbles, jacks, chess, all the competitions which derive from contests of skill and strategy). We don't refer to these Western sports as fighting events, but simply as games. Kites and these other games share elements of strategy as opponents try to outwit and out-fly each other: men and women, boys and girls, honing skills, challenging one another in the sport of kite flying. Opinions vary throughout the world just how the West might interpret this Indian sport. Indian-style adherents favor the use of traditional Indian manjha ground glass cutting line. A newly emerging group, however, worries about the accidents attendant upon glass lines. This group plays "touch" rather than cutting games; flying without ground glass, the flier achieves points for simply making contact with an opponent's flying line from above and below. Competitors maneuver their kites to touch and avoid being touched, or "cut" tissue paper tails with passes of un-coated flying line. (This is also practiced, though rarely, in India.) One excellent result of adaptations from outside India are newly engineered, faster Indian-style kites, and high performance reels.

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