In Pictures: The Jaipur Kite Festival | Milaap

In Pictures: The Jaipur Kite Festival

Lord Shiva was casually leaning against the wall when I entered. A short distance from him, a group of Gair dancers were sitting bored under a tree. The lake water glittered behind them in the sun. It was a quiet, lazy morning – till the Gair dancers got onto their feet. In a flash, they were dancing in a circle to the fast, rhythmic beats of the dhol players, their bright red tunics swirling around their feet. On the stage behind them, a folk musician began performing a qawwali. He furiously clapped the Khartal, a traditional Indian percussion instrument, with his eyes closed and a faraway smile on his face. When I looked back at the man dressed as Lord Shiva, he was surrounded by a group of tourists. He was sitting on the wall now with an air of holiness, as one after another, people clicked pictures with him.

 A Gair dancer performing at the festival

The Jaipur Kite Festival at the Jal Mahal on Makar Sankranti was filled with kite flying contests and energetic performances by Rajasthani folk artists. The blistering heat seemed to bother no one. People of all ages stood on ledges to watch the artists while the sky was dotted with numerous diamond-shaped kites that tried to cut past one another. There was shouting, and laughter, every time someone lost control of their kite and went chasing after the nearly invisible kite strings. And there were student activists with wide banners reminding people to fly their kites away from birds.

Though it was an open event, only tourists who came with a local tour guide gained entry to the inside area near the stage. The rest had to sit or stand behind a wooden fence. But after a while, people simply jumped the fence or slipped through the gaps in between. As a result, a large lively crowd had gathered around the stage towards the end of the program. Children, especially, watched with awe and excitement as a Kachhi Ghodi dancer came on stage and spun his golden horse to escape bandits. He was followed by Kalbelia dancers whose long black skirts lined with mirrors, glinted in the sunlight as they twirled in unison.

It was a small but spirited affair. And long after the event wound down, people continued to celebrate by flying kites in their neighborhoods with music and fireworks.