Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Basant Preparations

Lahoris are always set to fly colourful kites and light up the skies with beam in Lahore on Saturday evening and Sunday to celebrate the seasonal festival of Basant. Basant festival has given Lahore a very respectable place on the world cultural map in recent years.

Basant is a festival with strong economic dimensions. Kites worth millions of rupees are sold and flown by the Lahoris not only on Saturday evening and Sunday but throughout the month. The sale of kites, ranging from miniature guddi to king size guddas, brings phenomenal gains to the kite-makers, manufacturers accessories needed for flying kites. Mochi Gate becomes a big market of kites some months before the Basant festival.

Kite flying is also like a battle between two teams, and they fight for cutting each others kite. Kite makers celebrate as well due to the high demand of kites throughout the country. Cultural drum beaters are also hired for the event.

This festival also includes activities like music night, parties by an upper middle class Lahoris, and wearing of yellow clothes. Thousands of people visit this city from different countries to celebrate this festival at private residences, with their friends and relatives and most of the guesthouses are fully booked.

Multinational companies have now started taking advantage of this beautiful culture by promoting their products into various activities and festivals associated with basant such as sponsoring musical basant nights and displaying banners.

Basant Background

Before Pakistan and India were split into two, Basant, whose Sanskrit root means spring, was celebrated across Punjab. When the India-Pakistan partition split the Punjab in two, Basant remained a Lahori traditional event, but not without detractors.

Flying kites has been a passion in this part of the world, for adults and children as well. In Pakistan, people even fly kites at night, using powerful beam and searchlights. And every year, Basant transforms the skies over Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, into a glittery spectacle of thousand of thousands of kites.

Basant is represented by the yellow colour of mustard flowers. A festival which had its beginnings as a Hindu celebration but became more secular as different religions came to India and participated in the joy of the occasion. The streets, parks and the roof tops especially are alive with cheers of "Vo Kata" or Kite down, followed by drums beats(dholwalas).

Adults and children love to indulge in kite duels, and that is where the danger lies. For duels, the kites are flown on a thin wire or on a thick string coated with glass or chemicals, to better attack opponent's kites. Stray kites can and do drag their strings unpredictably, tangling around a human neck or limb and cutting it.

A maker of kite string, said his string was so thin it could not possibly slit anyone's throat. Before him, workers coated long stretches of string with a paste of crushed glass: the sharper the glass, the more lethal against its rivals in the sky.

Basant and the Ban

Basant being a very famous event from many years was transformed into the shape of a festival which was celebrated with joy and enthusiasm by the people of Lahore. It was for many years officially backed by the government and sponsored by multinational corporations. Although Basant "travels" throughout Pakistani Punjab it is Lahore which made it popular not only in Pakistan but all over the world as the largest kite festival. Unfortunately there are accidents and even deaths during the festival each year because of the public's ignorance towards the use of banned strings and also gunfire. Due to these unfortunate incidents and causalities, Basant left people thinking about that it should be celebrated or not? And due to uncontrollable causalities the answer to this question came in a no from government in the form of a ban.
If kite flying in Pakistan were not controversial enough already, religion is also entangled in the matter, with sections of the country’s Muslim majority objecting to Basant on grounds of its Hindu roots. Last year the festival was overshadowed by the tragic Lahore bombings, but with both pro- and anti-kite flying supporters ready to continue the kite fight, things look up in the air for 2009. “Each year the festival spells tragedy for many families”, the BBC's Paul Anderson in Pakistan says.
It has become a highly competitive event in which people employ extraordinary skills to bring down - better still, capture - an opponent's kite. Sometimes they use string coated in pulverized glass to cut an opponent's kite; other times metal wire - which is often coated in corrosive chemicals. The authorities have banned the use of metal- or chemical-lined strings to try to prevent accidents or electrocutions from kite-flying. Strings made of thin metal wire or coated with glass were outlawed last year but the ban was never enforced in view of their popularity with kite flying enthusiasts. Metal or glass coated strings help cut the strings of rival kites - the main objective of the sport. But they can catch unsuspecting bikers across the throat, at times with fatal consequences. Metal kites also cause short-circuits in overhead power cables, leading to heavy losses for electricity utilities.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Kites high up in the air, people dressed in bright yellow colored dresses, music, food, happiness and total fiesta all this would sum up basant for us. Basant is a festival which was celebrated every year in Lahore where people would enjoy flying kites, its origin is from Lahore and due to its entertainment it has now taken the entire nation by storm. It is celebrated in every corner of Pakistan, people often decorate their houses with kites and yellow flowers called “ ganday kay phool” , women make new dresses for this special occasion and wear bangles. It has become an important part of our culture now. The media also participates in the promotion and publicity of this event each year and not only have this but big company such as coca cola even sponsored basant activities. Promotional songs are also sung by various singers to add more life to the celebrations. Basant is becoming a very important aspect as far as tourist attraction is concerned, many foreigners fly from different parts of the world to see this even which for them is a combination of color, music and bucket full of fun.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Basant remains a controversy

Lahori’s were deprived of the basant for the last two years and were given false hopes that ban on basant will be uplifted until 15th march this year, however the hidden motive of the government was a big question mark at that moment. Long march was announced on 15th march and the government chose the exact same date to lift the ban on basant. Basant from many years has been celebrated in February because of the fine weather is suitable for kite flying and it’s the first time since I started celebrating basant that the date has moved to march. The main purpose of basant was not to let the joy and colors of basant spread amongst the people of Lahore but to divert their attention from the long march. From the last two years economy had to bear a loss of more than Rs 200 million annually. Around 500,000 families, directly related to the kite flying business, have lost their sources of livelihood because of the ban on Basant, ignoring all this government restricted Lahori’s to celebrate basant and deprived these families of bread and butter. Many people were forced to quit their business and had to do labor in order to survive. No aid being given to these families government acted irresponsibly towards its motive of giving people social and economic stability yet again. Cultural events like basant should be promoted rather than forcefully made a part of politics. It is still unclear that, Will Lahore see the next basant? or it was just dirty politics this year to make the long march unsuccessful.