Bali’s annual kite festival, known locally as Piala Gubernur Festival Layang-Layangan Bali is back in full force this 2022! The ‘Governor’s Cup’ as it is known is the highlight of all kite competitions in Bali, and it’s expected that 1,500 kites are set to fly for the Bali Kite Festival in 2022.
The festival will be taking place from 29-31 July 2022, and for the first time ever it will be located on Mertasari Beach in Sanur – normally, the festival takes place in Padang Galak. The Sanur location will surely bring in the crowds, whether supporting their own banjar, or there to witness these gigantic kites soar through the air all at once.
The Tradition: Bali’s Unique Kite Culture
From June to September, cool winds from the Australian winter blow across the island’s south coast, and the combination of warm sunshine and beach breeze make for a most delightful climate. Whilst visitors relish in the perfect sunbathing weather, the Balinese capitalise on this auspicious meteorology to engage in the island-favourite pastime: flying kites!
Kites are flown year-round in Bali but during this season is when the skies are crowded, even congested, with all manner of kites, in different shapes and sizes. The three traditional types of kites are: the ‘bebean’, which is shaped like a fish; ‘pecukan’, an oblong-shaped kite; and the the most impressive are the ‘janggan’ kites, symbolic of the cosmic dragon Basuki and fashioned with an impressive carving of the legendary serpent. More impressive are the janggan’s tails, which blanket the sky with over a hundred metres of black, red and white material which soars ever so elegantly from the back of the kite. Janggan kites are considered sacred, and thus many are given a ceremony before being flown for the first time.
Whilst kite flying may just seem like a local hobby, its history is rooted in two of Bali’s important pillars: religion and agriculture. In Bali’s own pantheon of deities one finds Sang Hyang Rare Angon, a ‘shepherd boy’, but also a manifestation of Shiva. This shepherd boy would call the wind forth using his magical flute and the kites could take flight. Kites were considered useful for farmers, who believed that their presence would repel any pests during times of harvest. Rare Angon is also worshipped to during the holy day for animals, known as Tumpek Kandang.
What was once a simple pastime for children out in the farms and fields has grown to become one of Bali’s most anticipated events. The Bali Kite Festival, founded back in 1979, now sees thousands of kites taking flight simultaneously. Preparing for such competitions is a highlight for banjars (village communities) around the island, who design, make and fly the kite together. It’s an important communal activity which epitomises Bali’s community-based culture, alongside the creation of the ogoh-ogoh effigies.
This year, the festival is set for 29-31 July 2022, taking place on Mertasari Beach in Sanur. It’s a real spectacle as each team comes with their own flags, music, support groups and the venue is filled with food, drinks, live commentary and there is a real sense of excitement. Padang Galak Beach is also a hotspot to witness kite flying.
Competition or not, Bali’s skies will be filled with kites through this windy season. Accompanying this visual feast, you’ll notice, is the distinct ‘guangan’ sound that reverberates through the air, a hum produced by a string or ribbon stretched across two splints — a veritable sign that kite season is here!