Fanush (ফানুস), is the bengali name of sky lantern, also known as Kongming lantern or Chinese lantern. It is a small hot air balloon made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended. The fire creats the gas which allows the balloon to stay inflated and fly in the air.
Though it originates from China, flying sky lantern was a status symbol and a mean of entertainment for the zamindars of Bengal besides feeding pigeons and flying kites but for the makers of the fanush, it was an art. The making of the fanush needs utmost precision, the measuring of the paper, cutting and pasting to bring out the perfect frame is necessary. Today it is a dying art and practice, but in some parts of Kolkata flying the fanush is very much enjoyed.
This year I had great luck to visit to one such event, where hundreds of flying lanterns were being lit and floated at dusk. Anirban da was invited by Debarshi Uncle and I could not even think of turning down the opportunity to witness it when was asked to accompany him. The sky was almost dark when the first bright orange fanush with fire lit at the bottom, filled with air swayed through the vast sky until a small dot. The view was astounding. Gradually everyone started lighting up the flying lanterns and the sky kept looking more beautiful each time a fanush was added.
This for me was a lifetime experience, the beauty of the sky with the flying lanterns was very much similar to the floating diyas on the Ganga, it was like mirror image of the Haridwar Ganga during the aarti, above head. This stunning view was enough make that day of mine worth living.
Thank you for that day Anirban Da and Debarshi uncle. 🙂