Six dead at Indian kite festival after sharpened strings cut throats

The annual festival sees competitive kite flying with reinforced metallic strings

kite festival india
Approximately 8 to ten million people participate in the Kite Festival every year across India
(Image credit: Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Six people, including three children, have been killed at a kite festival in India after razor-sharp strings cut their throats.

A reported 176 people were injured at the Uttarayan festival in Gujarat on the west coast of India last weekend, predominantly “due to cuts and falls”, reported the Daily Mail.

A boy aged seven and two girls aged two and three were injured after the kite strings “became entangled around their necks and slit their throats”, the paper said. The deaths took place in different cities across the region, and two men in Gandhidham city, Gujarat, aged 35 and 20, were also confirmed to have died from similar injuries.

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The International Kite Festival, which sees “approximately eight to ten million people participate” from around the world every year, “marks the day when winter slowly starts to turn into summer” in the Indian calendar, said Lifestyle Asia.

However, the festival also “sees revellers take place in deadly contests where they try to cut down other kites with their own kite string”, wrote The Mirror. It said these contests lead kite flyers to reinforce their kite strings “with glass powder or even metal, making it sharp enough to lead to the horrific deaths”.

Kite flying has become “notorious for causing death and serious injury in India”, said the Daily Mail, with two children dying at the event in 2016. That year the local government in India’s capital Delhi banned the use of sharpened, glass-covered strings, promising to “run campaigns to educate people about the dangers” as well as hand out punishments to those who do use them, said the BBC. In 2017, the National Green Tribunal banned the use of the strings, known as ‘manja’, across India.

As well as the devastating injuries caused to people, the kite strings also “kill and maim hundreds of birds annually”. This year “336 birds and 723 animals sustained injuries”, reported The Telegraph India.

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Richard Windsor is a freelance writer for The Week Digital. He began his journalism career writing about politics and sport while studying at the University of Southampton. He then worked across various football publications before specialising in cycling for almost nine years, covering major races including the Tour de France and interviewing some of the sport’s top riders. He led Cycling Weekly’s digital platforms as editor for seven of those years, helping to transform the publication into the UK’s largest cycling website. He now works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant.