New Delhi: The spirit of freedom scaled colourful heights in the skies of the capital throughout Wednesday when thousands of professional and amateur kite fliers took to the rooftops and streets to celebrate the Independence Day ritual of kite-flying.

"Kite flying as a tradition is much older than the Olympics. In the capital, kite flying as a public sport goes back much before Independence Day, almost 80 years before the country freed itself from the British rule. Now, it is a dying tradition because the present generation does not know how to fly kites," Sudhir Sobti of Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation told.

Delhi Tourism organised a day's kite flying festival at the Garden of Five Senses at Mehrauli in the capital, where kite fliers from old Delhi, the birth place of the tradition, came to show off their skills of flying multiple kites on a single thread.

"The high point of the festival was flying 100 kites on one thread by Bhai Miyan and his sons," Sobti said.

The Delhi Tourism official said: "The idea of the government was to revive the old tradition, keep new fliers updated about the tradition and initiate novices."

Delhi Tourism, which has been hosting the Independence Day kite festival for the last two years, will organise a kite festival at India Gate in November, Sobti said.

Kite flying as a tradition grew out of Old Delhi where artisans still make a variety of kites. The oldest and biggest kite market is at Lal Kuan in the old city, where "patangbaazi" began as a sport.

Some historians say the tradition dates back to the days of the Mahabharata. Kites were not only used for receiving messages but also for measuring distances during war.

Kite fighting is the most exciting feature of flying kites. The Indian fighter kites are crafted from thin paper that can take on the wind to scale heights. The thread which hoists the fighter kite is strengthened with crushed glass, egg, pigeon droppings and wax so that it cannot be snapped cut by rival kites.

Kites to most new fliers in the capital have deeper symbolism. "The kite is a symbol of our freedom and the height at which it soars is a message to the world of what we can achieve," Diksha Gulati, a college student, told IANS.

Gulati is part of a young people's non-profit platform, Rhythms of Life, which organised a children's kite flying festival at the Lodhi Garden restaurant Wednesday.

The non-profit group, which works for the right to education for poor children, tried to link kite flying to education with a skit and an exhibition of 100 kites made by 100 children from the fringes of the capital in the last 15 days.

Kite flying was promoted as an alternatives festival in Fly to Fight carnival at Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri Wednesday by an event management group, ByeDefault. The theme of the festival was corruption.

Smaller festivals were hosted at Dilli Haat and at India Gate.

Market places were packed with people, including foreign tourists, who bought kites by the dozens.

(Agencies)

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