A kite needs no introduction. Many of us have enjoyed flying a kite on a beautiful clear day, seeing the kite gently rise and soar high above us, up in the sky. Building kites and flying kites is an informal pastime, as well as a competitive sport in many parts of the world. Kite flying festivals and competitions are held in many parts of the world. In China (where kites are believed to have originated from) one day each year is commemorated as Kite’s day. In India, the International Kite Festival is held each year on January 14 to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan – to celebrate the end of winter. In Korea, men, women and children fly kites during the first few days of the New Year. Kite flying is also something to look forward to, and an essential part of the boys’ festival, which is held each May in Japan. Thailand also supports an International kite festival.

On those days, thousands of kites shaped like fish, butterflies and dragons take to the air and soar over the cities and towns. As a matter of fact, nearly all kite flying festivals all across Asia have "kite fights," which is a revered and an ancient tradition where players attempt to cut down their adversaries’ kites by cutting off their lines. This is accomplished by using small, highly maneuverable "fighter kites" that are attached to glass-coated "cutting lines." These specialized "cutting lines" are used to cut the lines of competing kites.

Materials for Kites

Kites typically consist of one or more spars to which a paper or fabric sail is attached, although some, such as foil kites, have no spars at all. Classic kites use bamboo, rattan or some other strong but flexible wood for the spars, paper or light fabrics such as silk for the sails, and are flown on string or twine. Modern kites use synthetic materials, such as ripstop nylon or more exotic fabrics for the sails, fiberglass or carbon fiber for the spars and dacron or dyneema for the kite lines.

Types of Kites

Kites can be designed with many different shapes, forms, and sizes. They can take the form of flat geometric designs, boxes and other three-dimensional forms, or modern sparless inflatable design. The simplest kind of kites is the two-stick solitary plane bow kite, which can be easily put together using sticks of any strong lightwood with a straight grain. The covering material can be ordinary brown wrapping paper, or a lightweight cloth, such as silk or nylon. The box kite consists basically of two rectangular boxes, open on two parallel sides each and connected by a common framework. Box kites are trickier to construct than stick kites, but they are excellent flyers and will maintain their position for long periods.

How Kites Fly

Kites take to the air, like airplanes, on the aerodynamic theory of wind pressure against a heavier-than-air object. The engine and propeller of the airplane generate wind pressure as they propel the aircraft all the way through the air. When the pressure is strong enough to conquer gravity, the plane is pressed up and permitted to stay in the air. The similar consequence of wind pressure is created by the kite flyer as he runs across an open field. As the kite moves against the wind, the string tips the face of the kite onward. The wind pushes up on this tipped face and raises the kite, just as a wedge pressed beneath an object lifts it up.

History of Kite-flying

Approximately 2800 years ago the kite was first invented and popularized in China, where materials ideal for kite building were readily available: silk fabric for sail material, fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line, and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework. The kite was said to be the invention of the famous 5th century BC Chinese philosophers Mozi and Lu Ban.

200 BC: Huein Tsang flew a kite at night to overawe the army of Liu Pang of Han dynasty in china.

100 BC to 500 AD: Kites were used by the army generals to send signals and to measure the distance of enemy camps.

549 AD: Paper kites were being flown in China, as it was recorded in that year a paper kite was used as a message for a rescue mission.

930 AD: The earliest mention of "Shiroshi" in Japanese literature where ‘Shi’ means paper and ‘Roshi’ stands for the Chinese bird.

960 to 1126 AD: Flying kites became a popular activity of recreation in China. People celebrated the 9th day of the ninth month, a day signifying the banishment of evil, by flying kites.

1542 AD: For the first time the word ‘ Patang’ finds mention in Indian literature. It was used by Manzan in ‘Madhumalti’, where the flight of a kite is associated with the loved one by a poet.

1752 AD: Benjamin Franklin lofted a kite to prove that lightning was of the same electric matter as the one that generated electricity. Wooden sticks were affixed to four corners of a square silk handkerchief and a projecting metal wire with sharp edge was attached to it. When an electrified cloud passed over the kite, lightning was drawn down through the pointed wire.

1870 AD: Australian inventor Lawrence Hargrave designed box-kites whose stability inspired others to create power driven aeroplanes.

1896 AD: Alexander Graham Bell designed ‘ tetra’ by combining lightweight sticks. He flew ‘Frost King" kite of 256 cells and improvised it to have 1300, and later 3393 cells.
At this time, Samuel Cody carried out experiments with man carrying diplane gliders.

1902 AD: Cody’s contemporary, the Wright brothers, were successful in becoming airborne, age of aviation begins.

Coming up Next: How to construct Kites!!

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