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Bali Kite Festival: Indonesian Sky Celebrates its True Colours in Style!

Have you ever witnessed a sky full of flying kites in various shapes like fishes, birds, footballs, leaves, dolphins, gods, lions, mermaids, or even a unicorn? Every year in July, the Bali sky is full of these floating shapes and kites as the Bali Kite Festival is underway.  One of the famous festivals in Indonesia, it kicks off in July when the winds start blowing across the beautiful island of Bali. All the people from the various nook and corners of Bali come together to celebrate this festival. What began as a seasonal festival has turned out to be a big sporting event in Bali. It also marks the beginning of the tourist season as the festival attracts a large number of tourists who gather to watch the beautiful sight of different kites flying in the sky.

Bali Kite Festival Dates 2019

2019 Dates: August 15th - 18th 2019
The opening ceremony of the kite festival takes place in July, and the closing ceremony takes place in October. There are several small scale competitions and side events that take place during the festive period, but most of the major events are conducted in the opening and closing months of the festival. Throughout the whole festival, a gamelan orchestra would play the traditional music of Bali.

During these months, the wind blowing from the ocean creates the perfect weather conditions for the kite lovers to fly their kites. As the events heavily depend on the weather conditions, visitors are recommended to check the exact dates of the event. They should check out the official website of the local authorities for the precise location and correct timings. 

Bali Kite Festival Venue

This festival is hosted across several locations on the island of Bali. The opening and closing events take place on Padanggalak Beach, which is on the northern side of Sanur. Other locations of the festival would include Masceti Beach which is on the Gianyar town; Ungasan; Mertasari Beach, Sanur; Abiansemal, Badung; Klungklung, Pelangi; Ungasan, Bukit Peninsula; Peliatan, Ubud; Marga, Tabanan; Denpasar and Kuta.

The Tradition of the Bali Kite Festival

Bali Kite Festival
Balinese People at the Kite Festival
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Bali Kite Festival is an International Festival to promote and conserve the Balinese tradition. In Bali culture, kite flying started as a seasonal festival that symbolises gratitude and respect towards the Hindu gods for the abundant harvest and crops. It is also a way to seek the blessing from the gods. The communal youth group which is also known as “Banjar” would come with their respective kite group which is known as “Sekaa Layangan” to compete for the first prize. Since then, the kite flying gradually turned into a sporting event.  

What Happens at The Kite Festival

Balinese People at the Kite Festival
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Presently, the festival welcomes teams from domestic and foreign origins to come and participate. Each team would consist of 70 to 80 members. The major task of the troupe would be to assemble their kite during the final event and successfully launching it along with its colourful tail. The teams would include flag bearers and flyers, and the gamelan orchestra band for encouraging their kite flyers. These teams would compete with each other for the first prize that has a large amount of monetary award.  

Kites at the Bali Kite Festival
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Along with the main competition, there are several other categories in which these teams would participate. The most famous competition is the New Creation (Kreasi Baru) where the most creative and distinct kite is awarded. Under this competition, the team would have to display their new kites in front of the judges. Anything from three-dimensional figures to unusual designs and mascots could be presented. Other competition would include best kite design, longest kite flight, and best kite launch. 

The Significance of Kite-Making

Long Tail Kites at the Bali Kite Festival
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Kites are the main focus of this festival. The kite building process is also considered as a special event by locals. The process would start long before the festival would commence. Each community would make an elaborate plan to build their unique kites, which would include a creative colour scheme and suitable light-weight materials. The most common and applicable material used for kite making would be cotton cloth and bamboo strips.

The whole building process of the kite would be completed under the supervision of the village elders. The local holy men and women called the Balians, Mangku and Pendanda are consulted to decide on the auspicious time and days to make the kites. Younger members of the community are responsible for all the hard work that elders would need during the process of kite building.

These kite builders could also make musical kites, which are known as “Guwang.” These kites would make a low humming sound that would be able to cover a considerable distance.

Balinese Traditions around Bali Kite Festival

Janggan Kite at the Bali Kite Festival
Janggan Kite at the Bali Kite Festival
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There are various types and looks given to the kites, but the significant ones follow the traditional style!

The three main categories of traditional kites are the bird-shaped kites called Janggan, the leaf-shaped kites called Pecukan, and the Bebean which are fish shaped kite. The dimensions of these kites can be anywhere between 10 metres in length and 4 metres wide.

The Bebean are the largest, while Janggan is the longest with a long tail that goes over 100 metres.  Among the traditional kites, the Pecukan requires a skilled and experienced flier as this type of kites have an unstable form and can stumble to the ground frequently. More than ten expert kite fliers are needed to handle these kites.

Each of these traditional kites has its competition. There would be ten teams that would be allowed to participate in each type of kite. They would compete with each other to get the longest flight time and the best launch prize.

The Symbolic Elements - Colours of the Kites

Janggan Kite at the Bali Kite Festival
Janggan Kite at the Bali Kite Festival
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The colour combination of the traditional kite would generally consist of white, red, and black along with yellow. Every aspect has a symbolic significance attached to the Balinese Hindu Trinity, which consists of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The colour red stands for Brahma(the creator of the universe); white signifies Vishnu (the protector) and black stands for Shiva (the destroyer). The colour yellow is added to appreciate the Dewata Nawa Sanga (eight gods representing eight directions).

Tips for Visitors

Bebean Kites - Fish Shaped Kites
Bebean Kites - Fish Shaped Kites
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July and August are the peak season on the island of Bali, and thus, the number of tourists would be very high. Here are some tips and advice that might help you in enhancing your kite festival experience.

  • Find suitable means of Transport: Due to the peak season, the traveller might face heavy traffic on the road. Even the prices of local transportation might be higher. 
  • Book in Advance: It is recommended to reserve accommodation in advance as they might not be able to book hotel rooms when they reach the location of the festival.  
  • Carry ID cards: The visitors should be careful regarding their surroundings. Always carry identification and the contact information of the hotel where you are staying presently. In any case of any trouble, the staff of the hotel would help you in resolving these matters.
  • Learn Basic Balinese language: The tourists should learn the basic greetings in the native language of the island. Learning these basic greeting would help in local interaction. You could also get information regarding hidden places on the island that are only known to locals of the island.
  • Pack light: As Bali is a tropical island, humidity levels would be very high. Thus, visitors are recommended to pack light cotton clothes, or you could buy them from the local market.
If you love to fly kites, then go ahead and participate in the event, too. During this festival, the tourists also get to experience the warm hospitality from the natives of the island. You can also participate in the kite building process. So, if you want to enjoy the thrill of flying kites and compete with random strangers, then do visit the Bali Kite festival.

This post was published by Rachana Jain