High into the air: A group of participants tried to fly their kite during the 12th Bali Hyatt Annual Kite Competition. Courtesy of Bali Hyatt
Under a bright sky, Sanur beach was exceptionally beautiful last Wednesday morning, making it the perfect setting for a truly fun day at the beach.
And indeed, several groups of people were having plenty of hilarious fun along the sandy strip of beach behind the Bali Hyatt.
But these were not your typical tourists sampling the various water sports and activities the beach affords. Rather, the groups were comprised of Hyatt employees, passionately competing against each other in the hotel’s annual kite festival.
Flying and making a kite in Bali is a serious business. Hamlets and villages take pride in the skills that their youth associations display in creating beautiful kites. They readily support the production of their associations’ official kites, which typically cost millions of rupiah.
For an association to emerge victorious from the island’s prestigious annual kite festival will be a cause for celebration by the whole hamlet or village.
That kites mean business in Bali is also reflected in the fact that kites have their own patron god in
Balinese Hindu mythology: Rare Angon.
Rare is the Balinese word for a boy or a child while Angon can mean a shepherd or the sense of intoxicating joy that comes from an encounter with or involvement in a beautiful activity. Flying a kite has long been acknowledged in Bali as such an intoxicating activity, with the island’s youths spending countless hours in open fields manipulating the aerial movements of their kites – or trying to cut down their opponents’ kites.
Rare Angon is believed to be the personification of Lord Shiva himself and the Balinese youths present him with special offerings before they start constructing a new kite and after completion of the kite. Yet you will not find mention of Rare Angon in the Vedic scriptures or in any Hindu temples in India: This god was born in Bali.
The pride, competitive spirit and religious elements were all on display during the 12th Bali Hyatt Annual Kite Competition, in which the staff members of the hotel’s eight departments were locked in a race to secure the best position.
On July 10, a special ritual was conducted at the hotel’s temple to mark the beginning of the competition. In the ritual, the participants sought a divine blessing and guidance from Rare Angon.
In the following days, the participants took turns to make their kites. The whole process took place in the temple, reflecting the religious deference that is always associated with the kite making and kite flying in Bali.
In the morning of the competition day on July 29, the newly finished kites were displayed in a parade that began at the Telaga Naga restaurant across the street from the hotel and ended at the hotel’s beachfront.
The parade attracted the attention of the hotel guests and visitors to the beach, who soon gathered in the competition arena to watch the goings on.
Each department presented an art performance outlining the philosophy behind its kite before sending its creation high into the Sanur sky.
The wind blew just right on the day, strong enough to lift the participating kites and gentle enough to allow the kites to make all kinds of maneuvers.
The panel of judges, comprised of representatives from travel agents, guests and the Bali Kite Association, observed the kites carefully before giving marks based on the set criteria of concept, creativity, design, color, teamwork and the kite’s performance in the sky.
With loud cheers – and boisterous boos – from the other participants, the members of the hotel’s engineering department were declared the winners.
“This competition is good for building solidarity among the staff,” said the Bali Hyatt public relations manager, Meutia Mahardhika, adding that it was known for “providing unique entertainment for the
guests and visitors and, most importantly, for preserving the island’s cultural heritage of kite making and kite flying”.