July / August  2006




August/September Contents 

Sufis - wisdom against

 Sufi poet saints

 50 years of mountain

 Interviews with:
 Ajaz Anwar
Iqbal Hussain
Kamil Mumtaz

 Heritage cities:
 Taxila Dharmrajika
 Bhera - Part I
Bhera - Part II


Cotton - the fibre of

Cotton textiles of
 South Asia

 Handlooms & Dyes

 Hiran Minar


 Lahore Gymkhana

 B2B - Part I

B2B - Part II

Optical Networks I
Optical Networks II

Role of Internet in
 S Asian development

Technology and
 investment in US
 stock markets

Security & Trust in
 Internet banking

 Telecom & software
 - trends & future in
 South Asia

China & India - major
 players by 2025

Pakistan - IT Markets
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV









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 Page  2  of  3

BASANT - 'A sky without frontiers'

- the Spring Festival of Kites



Salman Minhas


First published in March 2002


     Kites-Gudda-DO-Akhal-UK.jpg (13255 bytes)Kites-Gudda-fighter-UK.jpg (9080 bytes)

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Courtesy Mr.Jamie-Al-Nasir, U.K. [ ]


Lahore & Basant : A passionate relationship

Lahore’s centuries old walled city has become the official & unofficial center of Basant’s Patang Bazi. Some old havelis [villas] of Gowalmandi and Heera Mandi, in particular the "Barood Khana" Haveli or the old Gunpowder Villa near the old fort & Badshahi Mosque, have been renovated with great care by their owners -.Yusuf Salahuddin & Iqbal Hussain.

Multinationals companies [Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Emirates Bank, and Pizza Hut] have jumped in to participate and market their products via Kite flying as the ideal medium for marketing. Buy a Pepsi or a Coke and you get a free kite to fly with their logo during Basant. A Lahori jokes that Pepsi, Coke, McDonalds are battling for control of our air space. Meanwhile the Lahore High Court threw out a case saying that Basant was unIslamic. The parks [in particular the Race Course park] of Lahore are filled with kite flyers carrying their precious kites in their waterproof bags. The streets , parks and the roof tops especially are filled with cries and cheers of "Bo Kata" or Kite down, followed by drums rolls .

The French sent two teams to participate in 2001. One called "meteors" from Brittany and another from the school of fine arts from Aix Provence. Later a joint agreement was signed between the Lahore school of Fine Arts and the French school, with a documentary on the Basant being aired on a French TV channel. The Emirates Bank invited their 500 high net worth customers in a Basant bash on the rooftop of the Pearl Continental hotel on The Mall. Included was a music band called "Nexus" and a food festival including the candyfloss man for kids.

Kamran Lashari [ currently Director, Parks & Horticulture Society and a senior Civil Service officer] has been the major creative force in making this old Basant festival into a modern day business venture . The official venue for the event is the old city’s Delhi gate " Shahi Hamaam" [ or the Royal Bath] and the date was 17th February. The Chandigarh "Tribune" reported that about 10,000 tourists specifically came for the Basant event [ Jashne Baharan or Spring Festival ] in 2001 and generated about Rs. 8 billion [US $160 million] with employment for about 10,000 people. Special trains & flights were scheduled for Basant in Lahore .

The havelis and the roof top real-estate of the old walled city of Lahore have exploded in value as a result. Lahore, which was once renowned for its fashion and style, is beginning to recover its lost glory as the cultural capital of Punjab. The trend was started some years [around 1990] ago by a grand renovation of the old walled city under a World Bank Project. The Pakistan Government did much to implement and carry out this project successfully. Individuals living inside the walled city are proud of their history and the famous artist [National School of Arts] Iqbal Hussain renovated his haveli near the Badshahi mosque by converting his studio into an exotic "Cuckoo’s Cafe" where you can sample the inner city’s specialty foods.

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Ahmedabad & Basant :

In India, Ahmedabad is the kite flying center. Ahmedabad is famous for its Textiles & Design center. The Gujarat state Tourism department has held the International Kite festival for the last 13 years .

[For relaxing and pure joy reading on Kite Fighting in South Asia read Professor [ at SUNY ] Tal Streeter’s Book "A Kite journey Through India" .1966.]

According to the Indian Express of January 20 , 2002, women form the bulk of the kite making community and it is centered around a few villages near Ahmedabad. The major village is Jamalpura, and others include Behrampura, Gomtipura, Kalupur. Each woman averages about 800 -1000 kites a day. They receive only 3 paisa per kite . That means about Rs. 30 [ about $ 0.75] per day.

There are about 500 kite making families and they work throughout the year except for one month during Basant. Mothers and daughters, all make kites. The large volumes do not translate into profits. The average family in Gujarat buys about 200 kites in the year. The profit is made by the middle man or retailer who sells a kite for Rs.4 and upwards , with some kites selling for Rs. 500 . The total turnover is in millions of Rupees annually and the supply cannot keep up with the demand . Perhaps the women kite-makers of Gujarat should combine to form a cooperative and market their kites through a website also.

The professional kite makers within the city have also started to look for stronger kite making fabric such as lightweight nylon. There is a kite museum in Ahmedabad run by a kite fanatic called Bhanu Shah.

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Basant at Khawaja Nizamuddin’s Shrine- Delhi.

The legend of the 12th century saint Nizamuddin Aulia of Delhi has it, that he had been grieving the death of his nephew Taquiddin Nooh. His close friend and disciple Amir Khusro [ both are buried within the shrine of Nizamudin in Delhi] decided to cheer him up. Khusro met some village women on the road dressed up in yellow colors of the mustard that was in bloom at the time of spring. On finding that they were celebrating spring and offering flowers to their gods, Khusro also dressed himself in yellow and went with these women to Nizamuddin . Nizamuddin on recognizing Khusro started to smile. That started the rest of the disciples to sing Persian verses and offer flowers on the grave of Nooh.

The Basant festival is still celebrated in Nizamuddin’s shrine by a ritual collection of mustard flowers from a village in Harayana followed by offering the flowers to the shrines in Mehrauli, and Naseeruddin Chirag-e- Delhi.



"Aaj Basant manaley suhangan       (let us celebrate spring my love),

Aaj basant manaley                        (let us celebrate spring),

anjan manjan kar piya                      (more put on your make -up),

lambay neher lagaaye                       (and decorate your long hair),

tu kya sovay neend maasi        (you are still enjoying your sleep , wake-up),

so jaagay teray bhaag, suhagan      ( even your destiny has woken up),

aaj basant manalay...;                      (today lets celebrate spring),

oonchi naar kay oonchay chitvan     (you snobbish lady with arrogant looks) ,

ayso diyo hai banaaye;                     (such has God made you)

Shah-e-amir tohay dekhan ko,             (the king amir is here to see you),

nainon say nain milaaye,                     (let your eyes meet his)

Suhagan aaj basant manalaay.."    (Oh love, let us celebrate spring today) .

- Amir Khusro 
Verses from Yousuf Saeed’s site]


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