If you have ever been to Bali, you have probably seen these beautiful kites flying high in the sky. The Balinese are crazy about kites, and in the “Island of the Gods,” flying kites is a serious business. From July to September, the sky becomes full of these magnificent creations in many different colors, sizes, and shapes. But why is kite flying in Bali such a big thing?
Kite flying in Bali is an ancestral tradition, and like many other things in Bali, kites have a religious and spiritual side. The Balinese-Hindu use them to send a message to the gods, thanking them for abundant crops and harvest. Today the kites are as well a way to preserve local culture!
Kite flying is an important Balinese tradition that is kept alive by the locals. During the yearly Kite Festival, they come together to compete, to celebrate their existence, and to have fun. People in the villages enjoy the festive and build these incredible flying creatures, some as big as 10 meters long (32 feet) long – and that is without a tail!
The Meaning of Kite Flying in Bali
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To fully understand the importance of kite flying in Bali, we need to go back in time and look at the religious and spiritual side of it. Though it is unknown when this kite tradition started in Bali, its deep connection with agriculture is very clear.
For the Balinese, the kites are not only for fun, but they represent an important role in showing their gratitude and closeness to God. In the old days, the kites were used to send messages to the gods, wishing for a rich harvest. The kites were considered to have bodies, bones, and spirits.
Every year farmers, after a successful harvest, turned to the wide-open fields where they flew these amazing colorful kites. It was a way of showing gratitude and the blessing of a successful crop. The belief that kites are spiritual has since been maintained. To preserve and celebrate the hereditary culture of the ancestors, the locals join together in a yearly kite festival.
The Traditional Balinese Kites
The kites you see, flying in the Bali, are impressive! They come in all shapes and sizes and are probably not what you typically would see in the sky. The Balinese kites are shaped like a creature and are likely to be very big. It is said that the record so far is a kite, which is more than 180 meters long (600 feet)! That is with the tail, but still! That is huge!
The traditional Balinese kites are considered very important. The Balinese kite culture has even devoted its own Hindu God named Rare Angon, who is believed to protects their crops from disease.
The locals put a high amount of time, dedication, and craftsmanship into building these kites. The regular size of the traditional kite is from 2-4 meters wide and 6-10 meters long. The most impressive ones can even have tails that reach 100 meters or more. They can be so massive that it takes a whole crew to fly it! These flying creatures typically come in red, black, and white. The colors have a religious meaning, whereas red symbolizes Brahma, the God who created the universe. Black is for Shiva, the destroyer. And white represents Vishnu, the protector.
The traditional kites are divided into three categories, and they all resemble things we know from nature.
- Bebean – This is the largest one. It’s very colorful, and it is shaped like a giant fish. It has a flowing cloth tail that can reach more than 100 meters in length.
- Pecukan – This is shaped like a leaf. It’s known to be the most challenging to fly because of its shape, and it can be very unstable.
- Janggan – This is the longest one, and they are shaped like a bird. It can have wingspan that measures 7 meters across and 10 meters in length, with a 150-meter tail – which alone weighs roughly 80 kilos.
Kite Festivals in Bali
These fantastic events attract not only local spectators but also tourists, and kite fliers from around the globe join in. With the beauty and magic surrounding the Balinese kites, it is not difficult to understand why it fascinates people.
Every year from July to September, the Balinese celebrate the Kites with a dedicated festival. The exact dates are set depending on the weather conditions. The festivities are being held in different villages. During these events, the locals come together to build the most amazing creations and to compete against each other. As a tourist, this is a must to see!
These festivals are not only about flying, but the preparations are equally important. The building and flying of the kites entitle a long process. It starts with ceremonies held to make the kite sacred. This is being done by cleaning the kites with flowers and incenses. The process ends with what is called a Dipralina ceremony. They treat those kites with utter respect, and after the kite has both been flown and served its religious purpose, it is being cremated. This is done because they believe that spirit will return to its original form.
Creation of the Kites
To create a kite requires special skills. The locals come together before these festivals to build these creative and fantastic creatures. The frames of the kites are usually built up by flexible and strong bamboo and covered with a colorful cotton cloth. The details are crafted to symbolize elements of Balinese Hinduism.
It is not only adults who are part of the building kites. As kites play such an essential role in the Balinese culture, kids learn how to build their own from a young age. They can make them out of material such as bamboo, plastic, and textile and play with them. They may be dreaming of one day becoming the master of a kite in the competitions!
As a tourist, you can take classes on how to build a kite! As they are such an essential part of the Balinese culture, you will also learn the meaning of them before you start making them.
Getting your own Balinese kite
As a tourist watching this fantastic spectacle, it can be very tempting to bring one home as a (large) souvenir or simply have fun and try it out. As a tourist, you can buy kites in most shops across the island. You may also find that there are sellers along the beaches.
The traditional kites are often big, so to get one home, you should probably consider a more modest size. A regular kite has a wingspan of around 1,2 meters and 2 meters from the head to the tip of the tail. These are easier to maneuver than if you bring home one, which would require some more advanced skills to fly! Remember that you will need a gentle wind ( 5 -10 mph), or they become difficult to control, and they may break. Read more about wind speed in Best Weather for Flying a Kite.
If you are not able to visit Bali but still want to try flying a kite, you can order them online. Why not impress your friends next time you go out for a nature experience. Bring out an amazing Bali kite and paint the sky with amazing