Kite festival season in the Punjab and Korea

STANDING more than 3,000 miles apart, the Punjab and the Republic of Korea have something in common at this time of the year, and that’s kite flying.

Basant Panchami

Punjabi girls and their kites on Vasant Panchami in Amristar, Punjab, India / source: Narinder Nanu AFP Getty Images

The Hindu holiday Vasant Panchami, which celebrates the coming of spring on the fifth day of the 11th month Magha in the Hindu lunar calendar, fell on January 28 this year. It is a day to honor the Hindu goddess of learning Saraswati. In the Punjab region of northern India and eastern Pakistan, kite flying is one of the popular traditions on this day. People of all ages participate, and children are the most excited group among them.

Vasant Panchami

Punjabi girls and their kite on Vasant Panchami in Amristar, Punjab, India / source: Narinder Nanu AFP Getty Images

Kite flying is also organized on the Hindu harvest festival Makar Sankranti, which falls on January 14 every year. Indian people fly kites on that day to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season marked by longer and warmer days.

In South Korea, kite flying is a beloved winter game – this video is shot on New Year’s Day near Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do – but it also coincides with the two aforementioned Hindu holidays that commence spring. Koreans believe that the two-week period before the Lunar New Year’s first full moon, which falls on February 8 this year, is the most auspicious time to fly kites.


Traditional Korean kites or bangpaeyeon / source: Flickr user il_kap

As shown, traditional Korean kites or bangpaeyeon are made of five bamboo sticks and a big piece of mulberry paper cut into a rectangle with a circular hole in the center. They can be painted whichever way people want, but those who prefer may also inscribe their names, birthdays, and personal wishes on the bodies of the kites. People pray to the heaven to grant their wishes as they fly their kites. On the day of the New Year’s first full moon they cut the threads to their kites while the kites are flying high up in the sky, which is believed to bring good luck.

Certainly, amateur kitefliers are more inclined to try bangpaeyeon because it is relatively easy to maneuver. However, for more experienced kitefliers, sophisticated and elaborate kites can only mean more fun.

kite flying @ Hangang Park

Two kitefliers near Hangang River in 2007 / source: Flickr user digital_shutterbug

kites.. everywhere..

Multiple bird kite at Haneul Park in 2009 / source: Flickr user Seoul Korea