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Manja (or manjha) is the abrasive string used for fighter kites in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chile, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It is gummed, coloured and coated with powdered glass. In Brazil, the mix of glue and powered glass is called "cerol".
Kites are fought all throughout the year and during special kite flying festivals in the region. Two fighters will entangle the glass powder coated manja while flying their kites in the sky and try to cut off the string of each other's kites by pulling it.
The winner's kite keeps flying while the loser's kite gets cut and drifts away with the wind. Children and/or adults run after a cut kite and try to capture it when it falls to the ground, a practice called kite running.
Traditional recipes use rice gluten, tree gums and similar natural ingredients, and the exact recipe is often a closely guarded secret of the individual maker. By contrast this is a modern recipe used by some in Tamil Nadu:
- finely powdered glass
- industrial adhesive such as Vajram
- maida flour ( Maidha Movu)
- aluminum oxide, abrasive ( Called as Sudu Movu in Chennai, looks white in Colour)
- zirconia alumina, abrasive ( Called as Iron Powder in Chennai, looks Black in Colour)
The water is boiled with the addition of vajram, to which is added a paste of maida and finely powdered glass pieces to make a thick colloidal solution and the abrasives are added. The colouring is added, while stirring is continued to make a thick paste without the sedimentation of the glass and abrasives.
Threat to birds and human life
Manja can be dangerous to birds and to humans.
Many people also get seriously injured and lose their lives when they fall off rooftops when flying and fighting kites and handling the manja reels and vigorously pulling or releasing it during battle of the kites. In the Indian subcontinent kites are generally flown and fought from the rooftops of houses.
Kite running is the practice of running after drifting kites in the sky that have been cut loose in battle with other kites.
Both kite runners and kite fighters die or endanger their lives because they run into the path of oncoming traffic and trains without looking down or fall from trees and buildings which they were trying to scale to get at kites that landed on top while gazing up and running after kites. They may walk around in the middle of congested towns and cities and while gazing up may be dangerously unaware of what is happening on the ground in their immediate surroundings causing injuries and collisions with traffic.
Individuals are also injured or killed by lacerations inflicted by the abrasive strings of fighting kites. In January 2014, a five year old girl in the Indian state of Rajasthan was killed by manja that slit her throat.
- "Chinese manja injures nearly half a dozen birds since January 1". The Times of India. 6 January 2013.
- "Kite thread claims girl's life, 73 others injured in Jaipur on Sankranti". The Hindu. 14 January 2014.
- Banned Chinese manja still on sale; by Kumar Manish, TNN; 6 January 2010; Times of India
- Manja market flying low! 15 Dec 2006, Rajat Ghai , TNN, The Times of India
- Docs flock to save winged victims, 10 Jan 2008, Radha Sharma , TNN, Times of India
- Vulture worries stalk activists on Uttarayan, 14 Jan 2007, TNN, The Times of India
- Vets to heal birds this Uttarayan, 5 Jan 2006, Radha Sharma , TNN, The Times of India
- Soaring kites ground at least 600 winged souls, 15 Jan 2005, TNN, The Times of India
- Uttarayan cuts short six lives, 16 Jan 2004, TNN, The Times of India
- 10-year-old boy dies chasing kite, 14 Jan 2008, TNN, The Times of India
- Celebrate... but with compassion, 12 Jan 2004, JHUMARI NIGAM , TNN, The Times of India
- Pakistan tackles killer kites: Kite flyers in Pakistan's Punjab Province will face murder charges and a possible death penalty if their sharpened strings cause more deaths. By Shahid Malik, BBC, BBC correspondent in Lahore, Tuesday, 10 June, 2003
- Many birds fall prey as kites rule skies, 15 Jan 2003, TNN, The Times of India