Shoot at sight

| Updated on: Jul 22, 2016

The national sport of Bhutan, archery adds significantly to the country’s happiness index

When I reach Changlimithang stadium in Thimphu, four men in the traditional Bhutanese costume of gho , are peering across the field. Their faces are screwed up with intense concentration. Watching in the stands is a desultory bunch of young people.

The audience includes students, monks and old people. But the heat is not on yet; it is still early stages in the match.

In Bhutan, a small corner of the subcontinent, the match in progress is not cricket, as can be expected, not even football, but archery.

Thwack! The arrow flies in from across the field — all of 140 metres (at 476 ft, twice the official Olympic length) — and hits the bullseye. And, suddenly, the men who were watching silently all along, now whoop and whistle, and break into a dance. It is a simple foot-up and foot-down shuffle but it is performed with the earnestness a minor victory dance deserves.

When a player misses his mark, taunts fly thick and fast across the field, like the arrows themselves. There is a lot of laughter, and a lot of hand-wringing. And these days, a lot of money riding on the match, as well.

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and the Bhutanese take it very seriously indeed.

Charukesi Ramadurai is a Bengaluru-based freelancewriter-photographer

Published on Jan 18, 2022


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