Archery: beloved na­tional game of Bhutan

Shanghai Daily - - SPORTS FEATURE - Ab­haya Sri­vas­tava gho Star Sports 2 CCTV 5

Ev­ery week­end Bhutanese Pema Dorji chan­nels his in­ner Robin Hood and aims for the bull’s-eye, but not with­out gen­er­ous sips of the lo­cal brew and a leg-kick­ing dance and song rou­tine.

The likes of Dorji make up the vi­brant archery scene in the small Hi­malayan king­dom of Bhutan where the tra­di­tional sport is a way of life for its 800,000 peo­ple.

Com­pe­ti­tions are held across the coun­try on var­i­ous aus­pi­cious days each month be­fore cul­mi­nat­ing in na­tional cham­pi­onships at­tended by hun­dreds of rau­cous fans.

“Al­co­hol and archery go hand in hand,” said Tashi Dorji, the re­search and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer with the Bhutan In­dige­nous Games and Sports As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We drink to gain con­fi­dence. We have a be­lief that if we drink we can hit the tar­get bet­ter,” the 25-year-old said, barely hid­ing a sheep­ish grin.

The game they play pits two teams of 11 play­ers each who try to hit the max­i­mum num­ber of bull’s-eyes on a fixed tar­get a full 140 me­ters away.

A war cry rings out each time the tar­get is hit. Play­ers in tra­di­tional dresses dance and sing folk num­bers — dif­fer­ent ones for win­ning and los­ing.

The cru­cial drink breaks see archers gulp down lo­cally brewed whisky be­fore lock­ing horns again on the field where col­or­ful flags flut­ter in the breeze.

The beloved na­tional sport is steeped in le­gends about how bows and ar­rows were used to hunt prey and de­stroy de­mons and evil spir­its.

Sto­ries also abound about how the Bhutanese fought the ri­flearmed soldiers of the Bri­tish army in the 19th cen­tury us­ing ar­rows dipped in poi­son.

Archery was pop­u­lar­ized by the first king of Bhutan Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuk (1862-1926) and it con­tin­ued to flour­ish un­der royal pa­tron­age through the years.

But it suf­fered a de­cline af­ter the reclu­sive na­tion de­cided to pur­sue eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and open its doors to mod­ern­iza­tion, even­tu­ally al­low­ing in tele­vi­sion in 1999.

“TV made mod­ern sports avail­able, sports like foot­ball and vol­ley­ball which are cheaper to play. Sud­denly there was com­pe­ti­tion for our tra­di­tional sports,” said Kin­zang Dorji, pres­i­dent of the BIGSA. “Chil­dren had a wider choice un­like the gen­er­a­tions be­fore them,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, the ad­vent of more ad­vanced com­pound and re­curve archery has meant Bhutanese archers used to tra­di­tional equip­ment made of bam­boo reeds have strug­gled to find their feet in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

Bhutan has sent archers to ev­ery Olympics since 1984 but a medal has eluded the na­tion.

Some say the Bhutanese, who will vote in only the coun­try’s third elec­tions later this month, lack the fiercely com­pet­i­tive streak needed to do well in the sport.

The likes of Ygyen Dorji beg to dif­fer though.

“The ri­valry is quite in­tense. Op­po­nents of­ten plant women in the stands to dis­tract the ri­vals,” said Ygyen Dorji, a men­tal health coun­sel­lor and archery en­thu­si­ast. “The ladies mimic you, try to pull you down and one has to con­cen­trate hard as pride and honor are at stake.”

Fel­low par­tic­i­pant Karma Tsh­er­ing said Bhutanese archers were not as­pir­ing to global ac­claim.

“Any­body can shoot with the so­phis­ti­cated mod­ern bows with the help of re­lease aids and all,” said Tsh­er­ing.

“It’s the tra­di­tional archery which is more chal­leng­ing, you have to fo­cus on both your body and mind,” he said, ad­just­ing the sashes on his waist which he won for scor­ing max­i­mum points dur­ing a game at Thimpu’s na­tional sports sta­dium.

The Bhutan Archery Fed­er­a­tion re­cently started a pro­gram to train and en­cour­age chil­dren to take up the sport.

In a shot in the arm for tra­di­tional archery, two Bhutanese ath­letes won gold medals at the his­tor­i­cal World Archery cham­pi­onship held in Au­gust in Hun­gary.

“It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence to com­pete with some 300 archers from all over the world,” said gold-medal­ist Dam­cho Wangdi. “It showed tra­di­tional archery can be re­vived as many coun­tries in Europe and Asia have

Judo, World Judo Tour 2018, Can­cun

Mo­tor cy­cle rac­ing, FIM Asia Road Rac­ing Cham­pi­onship 2018, Race 1

Mo­tor cy­cle rac­ing, Mo­tul FIM Su­per­bike World Cham­pi­onship 2018, Race 1

Base­ball, Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries 2018, Los An­ge­les Dodgers vs. Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers

Auto rac­ing, Blanc­pain GT Asia 2018, Race 1

Bas­ket­ball, NBA, Hous­ton Rock­ets vs. Mem­phis Griz­zlies

Bas­ket­ball, NBA, Los An­ge­les Lak­ers vs. Golden State War­riors

Soc­cer, CFA Team China In­ter­na­tional Foot­ball Match, China vs. In­dia some his­tory of play­ing with bows and ar­rows.

“And with our rich archery his­tory and cul­ture Bhutan can lead the way.”

Bhutanese archer Karma Tsh­er­ing (cen­ter) shoots an ar­row at the Changlim­ithang Archery Ground. — AFP

A Bhutanese ar­row maker heats a bam­boo stick as he makes an ar­row at the Bhutan Tra­di­tional Archery shop. — AFP

A Bhutanese shop­keeper dis­plays ar­rows at a tra­di­tional archery crafts stall at Norzin Lam in Thim­phu. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.