Shoot at sight

Charukesi Ramadurai | Updated on January 17, 2018

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 July 22, 2016

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