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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:
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.
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.