Balinese Kites

A Traditional Game

On June until September, the clear blue-sky of Bali will be decorated with colourful kites flown by joyful kids and grown-ups all over the island. These months are considered as the best period to play this particular game as Indonesia is on the dry season, and the wind is strong enough to get the kites fly high in the sky. It is a wonderful moment for Balinese to gather on the beach or rice field to fly a kite together with friends, family or neighbours.

But there is more about this traditional flying-toy. Kites have been around in Bali since ages, and for some people, it is considered as a sacred religious object to send messages or gratitude to Gods for an abundant harvest or ‘Rare Angon’. The colours commonly chosen are black, white, red and yellow, which are represents the incarnations of the Hindu deities.

There are at least three types of traditional Balinese kites we can find today:

  • Bebean kite which looks like a fish
  • Janggan kite depicts a long tail bird or a dragon
  • Pecukan kite is shaped like an enormous leaf and known to be the most difficult to fly

Since a very young age, boys in Bali are taught to make their kites from the bamboo, and thin colourful paper called “kertas minyak”. This opportunity also functioned as father-son bonding activity like a father teaching their son baseball or ride a bike in western countries. While for the grown-ups versions, they replace paper with silk-cloth that has been sewn up on the bamboo frame and used rope instead of string to navigate this kite. It will need tens of people to operate this huge flying machine; even sometimes they will need a boat or a motorcycle to create momentum and strong winds so that the kite can fly.

Sadly, during the kite season usually, the number of traffic accident arise on the island. Some unfortunate scooter riders happen to tangle themselves on a kite-string. Drive carefully when passing the roads in areas where locals flying their kites, wear a scarf on your neck if possible and don’t ride your scooter topless.

The Bali Kite Festival

Since the late ’90s, kite festival is regularly held in Sanur Bali every summer between June to August, many tourists, especially kite enthusiasts from all over the world, are visiting Bali during these special days. There are hundreds of group from all Banjars in Bali will send their best kite flyer team called “Sekaa Layangan” hoping to take home the big prize as the reward for the competition in this festival. All group will construct their kites in such a way we never think of before, and this can take months to prepare.

During the event, we can see colourful kites in many shapes from cartoon characters, temples, superheroes figure, animals and anything. For the cultural theme contestants, a priest will bless the kite before take-off and a group of 70-80 people; consists of flyers, gamelan band, and flag bearers will march to the venue in uniform costume.

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