Kite fliers from 13 countries dazzle Delhi

New Delhi: On a dull, overcast Saturday, more than 300 kite fliers from 13 countries gathered at the India Gate lawns, brightening up the sky with kites of all shapes, sizes and colours.

With kites shaped as dragons, butterflies, birds and even a parachute, the fliers participated in the curtain raiser to the International Kite Festival to be held in Ahmedabad Jan 10-14.

An awestruck 15-year-old Tushar Baizal, though passionate about kites, was not sure if he could fly one. Until the team from Indonesia handed him their kite.

"This feels so amazing. It is for the first time that I am flying such a huge kite," said the resident of the Old City, his eyes gleaming and his arms trying bravely to control the huge, red kite -- by far the biggest among the lot.

To ensure that the kite was not blown away by the wind, it was tied to a tree with a thick rope.

Indonesian flier Lily flew the parachute-shaped kite. With a slight tug, it billowed, turning into a kaleidoscope of colours.

First-time visitor to India, Belgian Bert Maetens told IANS that he was excited about his upcoming Ahmedabad trip.

"I would love to see the traditional kite flying in the Indian villages, where the young and old alike engage in very competitive kite-fights and try to outdo each other," he said.

Among his repertoire was a huge black Rokkaku, a traditional Japanese fighting kite and a pair of Delta-wings which he claimed could "fly in no-air conditions".

His friend Bob Cruikshanks of Britain said kite-making had become an art in itself, with new materials being developed specially for the purpose.

"Our kites are crafted from Icarex, a special type of nylon, created in ripstop fashion which prevents tearing due to fast winds," he said.

A retired aeronautics engineer and a long-time kite enthusiast, he has been coming to India for six years now.