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traditional aakaash kandil

(Update: If you don’t want to make the kandil pictured above, but instead want to make a cylindrical one, with “karanjya” all around, the instructions are here.)

If the aakaash kandil of the previous post was the one I made frequently as a child (and also last year), this is the one that my father made frequently as a child. The frame of this aakaash kandil is a satisfying geometric shape, which is constructed using wooden sticks and twine. Then you get to cover the frame with coloured paper and decorate it. Add the obligatory zirmulya underneath, and you have a very traditional aakaash kandil to hang in your courtyard. I am by no means an expert in making this aakaash kandil, so along with the steps and pictures below, I’ve also written what I would do differently next time, in order to make the process easier, and the final product nicer.

You will need 32 medium length sticks and 4 longer sticks to make the frame. I used flat wooden tea/coffee stirrers for the short sticks (7in long), and for the longer ones (about 12in long) I simply stuck and tied together two of the short sticks. I recommend using something smarter than the flat stirrers I used. They offered some friction, which was good, but a bigger cross-section, either circular, or better yet, square, would make things easier. Sticks with smooth surfaces should be avoided.

make 8 of these

Start by making 8 squares out of the small sticks. (Learn from my mistakes — use thick-ish twine or yarn, not thin thread as I have above.)

closed fence

Then tie together 4 of these squares, corner to corner, to create an object that is like a closed fence.

6 squares, symmetric

Now tie another square to the 4 corners that are at the top of the fence, and another square to the 4 corners that are at the bottom of the fence. You will end up with a symmetric 6-sided object. I should say that I had a great deal of difficulty with this because I did not have a second pair of hands to help. I also realized that the thread I was using was really not going to hold things together as firmly as needed, and switched to yarn at this point.

add 4 vertical sticks

Vertically tie a tall stick to the inside of each of the 4 squares that originally made the fence. You should have about 1in of the stick protruding past either end. (I am not fully certain, but it may be more common to tie these long sticks to the 4 squares before the fence is constructed.) (Also, since it is a symmetric 6-sided object, you don’t strictly have to go with the 4 squares that formed the original fence. You can go with something equivalent/isomorphic.)

complete frame

Now tie the remaining 2 squares to the top and bottom ends of the tall sticks. Your frame is ready.

triangles covered

Next, start covering various surfaces. I started with the triangles, using triangles with 8in sides. Since the sticks were 7in, and the frame sides were a bit smaller than that, this covered the faces with some margin. This margin is useful for gluing the paper around the sticks firmly. For this step and a lot of the later ones, you will need to press together the glued areas with fingertips of both hands, usually with one hand inside the kandil and the other outside.

top and bottom strips, corners exposed

Then I added strips of contrasting colour at the top and bottom borders of the frame. They were 7in x 1.75in, again including the margin to stick them over the horizontal sticks at the very top and bottom. I let these blue strip overlap the yellow triangles a bit. (My strips left some exposed corners, which I covered up later with little blue strips, but it may be better to do this neatening up right at this step. For a neater effect, you could also use a single long blue strip to go all around the kandil, instead of using 4 separate strips. Another approach would be to stick the 4 strips around each corner instead of sticking them on each side. Lots of ways to make the corners neater.) At this stage I also tied some string to the top part of the frame, with which to hang the kandil later.

squares with untrimmed edges

And finally I added the squares to the four main faces. I used 7in x 7in squares, which were just a bit bigger than the faces of the frame. (Once these are on, trim their edges if they protrude beyond the frame underneath. They are likely to protrude just a little bit. The more even and flush the edges between the square faces and adjacent triangles are, the more pleasing the whole effect. I did not do this, but definitely would next time.)

neatified, decorated

Next you get to neaten and/or decorate your aakaash kandil. I added the following things: red borders with serrated edges, doing my best to cover up the 4 corners around the middle; little blue strips of paper at the corners of the top and bottom bands, where the frame was being exposed; thinner and non-serrated red borders at the very top and bottom; and decorative contrasting paper on the main faces, that is, the 8 small blue triangles and the 4 small yellow squares with the decorative cuts. (I did this by folding each square along both diagonals and making some cuts, and then folding along the mid-lines and making some more cuts.)

Cutting the shapes in the 4 small yellow squares was perhaps the most fun part of all. Sticking on the serrated strips along the diagonal edges was not a lot of fun. It took a while to cut the serrations, but sticking on the edges was the real problem because the edges weren’t nice and even. As mentioned above, trimming the edges of the square paper once it is stuck on may be a good idea, and one I’ll try in the future. As a general principle, it is good to apply glue generously at all steps of this kandil, but especially when sticking on these edges. I was reminded of the glue made from rice flour that was traditionally used for this sort of project (called khal in Marathi), before commercially available glue became the norm. Another common and traditional decoration is to use small karanjya (similar to the ones here) to cover up the pointy corners and/or to line the top and bottom borders.


Finally, make the zirmulya. To have them be about 1.5 times the height of the kandil, start with something like a full sheet of kite paper (about 20in x 25in). Cut the zirmulya about 0.5in wide, folding the paper for efficient cutting, if desired.

kandil on desk

Apply glue to the top of the zirmulya and stick them to the bottom wooden square. This will be awkward, but you can let the kandil rest on the sides or have someone hold it up as you do the sticking. Your aakaash kandil is ready.

lattice work

Unlike the other aakaash kandil, I don’t find the process of making this one meditative. It is frustrating, awkward and time-consuming, and the desk gets very messy indeed. The final product is not overly neat either. But all that just means that I need to make it more often. I hope you give this one a shot, because the sight of one fluttering on a Diwali night is as traditional as any, and well worth pursuing.