Some of the traditional Balinese Kites

Some of the Traditional Balinese Kites

Balinese kites are large and the kite fliers are young
There are many countries in the world that have beautiful and unique traditional kites, but there is no place in the world that has such a strong kite culture as Bali in Indonesia.

In Bali the Hindu religion is the backbone of the society, and kite flying is both a pastime and a religious act. There is in fact a kite god, Rare Angon, who is often depicted as a boy playing flute while riding a buffalo.

The Balinese word for 'kite' is layangan, which is a diminutive for the sanscrit word layang, meaning 'letter'. A small letter is a message, so flying kites is sending messages to the gods.

The Balinese kites are unique in shape and often very big; 4 - 7 m wing span is quite common. Usually it takes several people to launch and fly a kite. Practically every Balinese boy knows how to make and fly a kite.

From May to October there are good and stable winds blowing in Bali; often quite strong. This is kite flying season, and there are kites in the sky anytime of the day and everywhere; even when landing at the airport one can see kites through the airplane window.

The kite competition season then starts in late June/early July, when new kites have been built and test flown.

In a kite competition in Bali there are usually five categories of kites:

  • Bebean - the fish kite.

  • Pecukan - the leaf kite.

  • Janggan - the dragon kite with long tail.

  • Kuwir (also called Janggan Buntut) - a simplified Janggan with only a short (1 - 2 m.) tail and a less elaborated head.

  • Kreasi Baru - new creations.

Sometimes a few more categories are added, at least at some competitions:

  • Celupuk - an owl kite which has become very popular.

  • Kedis Kandik - Balinese swallow kite.

  • Cotekan - like a shrunk Bebean.
The Janggan (dragon kite) is the most spectacular of the Balinese kites with its extemely long tail and beautifully carved head.

According to Hindu mythology the planet earth rests on the back of a giant turtle named Benawang Nala. The dragon Naga Basuki has wound itself around the earth. Thus Benawang Nala and Naga Basuki are the protectors of the stability of the earth. This symbolizes a state of balance that creates peace.
Therefore the Janggan is the most sacred of the Balinese kites. Before it is flewn for the first time there is a special ceremony to instill a holy spirit in the kite. Because of this sacredness the Janggan must never touch the ground. Thus its is very important for the kite fliers to catch the kite in the air when they bring it down after flight.

Janggan heads are exquisiteley carved out of wood and heavily decorated.
Bebean is the most popular kite. Bebean means ‘fish’, so it should swim in the sky like a fish in a gentle movement.

Fish is a symbol for the prosperity that is abundant in Bali - at the sea, in the rivers, in the lakes and even in the rice fields.
Fish is important for the daily life; for ceremonies and meals.

Pecukan [petchukan], the leaf kite (or corner kite), is the most difficult kite to fly since it only a wing.

The pecukan is curved back and has sharp corners or points in both ends. That symbolizes positive and negative, good and bad, day and night. They are on the opposite ends of the same kite and look the same. They must always stay together and make unity.
Traditionally the sail was made of skin from the banana plant, and it is still made like this in the town of Tabanan. This pecukan is called Kerokan gedobong

All kites have two guang (hummers): male (in the front) and female (at the rear), and they should make a harmonious sound in the sky.

Kreasi Baru

Kreasi Baru means 'new creation' and the kite must be made during the current year.

The Balinese (like the rest of the Indonesians) have a no-limit imagination: They create kites from images in daily life, like kite surfer, lamp or gambelan.

Or Bob Marley.
"No woman no kite"