- Kelantan is famous for its kites and kites are famous because of Kelantan. The fascination in kites can only be experienced when we see the huge Kelantan kites swaying in the blue skies. We would be truly experiencing the wonder and beauty of kites when various and numerous colourful designs completely envelop the Kelantan skies.
In northern Malaysia, kites are known as “ Wau”. The history of Malay kites is deeply steeped in legend. Kites had been used in wars to frighten enemies. There is a story of a kite being used by a Malay prince to fly off to meet his love in the heavens.
The Chinese must have brought the kites to the Nusantara region. The Malays developed the kites in their own unique flavour. Kites were made and flown to appease the Weather Gods. Prince Ahmad, son of Mahmud Shah of Malacca flew kites, says the Malay Annals.
The type of decorative designs selected are an individual choice. The designs are influenced by decorations found in carved timber walls, palace pillars or from the borders of sarongs. Flowers and leaf motifs are abundantly found in kite designs.
Traditions demand that kites should have ‘eyes’ to allow the kites to know their way in the celetial realms. Each kite must have a ‘head’, a ‘spine’, a ‘ waist’, a ‘wing’ and a ‘tail’.
The frame of the ‘wau’ should be strong but flexible. A type of bamboo is used for this purpose. Another feature of the kite is the noise making bow or hummer. The noise makes the kite to come ‘alive’. The bow in the frame allows balance in the kites. There is something mystical about the way a kite defies gravity by swaying and climbing slowly up the sky.
There are more than 20 styles of wau bulan or moon kites.
It takes 2 days to 2 weeks to make a ‘wau’. It takes skill and patience to construct a wau. Traditionally, the flying line was a fishing twine made from free fiber wound on a wooden spool. Now modern monofilament nylon is used for kite flying.
Kites are flown after the harvesting season is over. People are happy and free to pursue pastimes. It takes two persons to fly a kite. One lifts the kite (principal) and the other helps the lift (assistant). Kites need strong calm winds for successful flying. Months between May to July see calm winds in the East coast.
The Kelantanese are fond of holding kite competitions. The kite that flies higher and lasts longer would be declared the winner. Successful flying depends equally on the principal (Juru anjong) and the assistant (Juru tarik). The reputation of the village depends heavily on the successful launching and flying this 5ft x 4ft kite.
In the high flying match, two teams of four fliers each pick their best kite and launch. The losing team may choose another kite and try again. The competition continues until all kites of one team have been defeated. In the humming match, the winners are judged by the sound they make continously for 1/4 hour. One must not use modern material to produce the sound in kites.
Kite festivals are often organised by the state government. Tourists can buy souvenir miniature kites throughout Kelantan.