Uttarayan — International Kite Festival in Gujarat

Firkins (kite-string spools) of manja, a special string coated with a mixture of glue and glass and sharp enough to slice your fingers for cutting strings of rival kites.

Recently I was in the city of Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, India and visited a small kite museum there.

Kites mark change of seasons and play an important social function in India. The festival of Uttarayan is a uniquely Gujarati phenomenon, when the skies over most cities of the state fill with kites from before dawn until well after dark. The festival marks the days in the Hindu calendar when winter ends and summer begins. On what is usually a bright warm sunny day with brisk breezes to lift the kites aloft, across the state almost all normal activity is shut down and everyone takes to the rooftops and roadways to fly kites and compete with their neighbours.

Since 1989, the city of Ahmedabad has hosted the International Kite Festival as part of the official celebration of Uttarayan, bringing master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to demonstrate their unique and highly unusual kites.

The kite museum however has none of the colour or grandeur of the festival. It has a small collection of kites from around the world. What is interesting though about the museum though is that it is housed inside a Le Corbusier building.

Some say Sanskar Kendra (City Museum) Ahmedabad is the worst Corbusier building in India and having visited it, I can understand why. The museum is similar to other museum projects by Le Corbusier, such as the “Museum of unlimited extension” and the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. The building is on a square structural grid with exhibition spaces organised around an open courtyard.

Corbusier trademarks such as exposed brick & concrete, water spouts and cast iron grills & rails are evident throughout the building, but as a museum space the building fails miserably. Natural lighting and ventilation are almost non-existent and the exposed brick and concrete stand ravaged by time and weather.

To be fair to Corbusier, this was his first building in India and one can see his struggle with the local conditions – both spatially and structurally. He would go on to build truly remarkable buildings by the time he was done with India. ♦

Image credits: Link

reported by Venkat


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