You are here: RAO Home > Travel > Bhutan > Overview > Topics > Sports > Archery in Bhutan > National Sport Search
Bhutan Information
Archery in Bhutan
Grafik Bhutan's Sports Archery
Archery Bhutan's national sport
Divine intervention
Grafik Bhutan's Sports Archery
Grafik Grafik
Video Bhutan Videos
previous pageend
Archery - Bhutan's National Sport
Archery Archery tournament
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and every village has it own archery range. High spirited competitions, usually accompanied by a banquet, are a part of all festive occasions. Using bamboo bows (although modern compound bows are finding their way into the kingdom) teams of archers shoot at targets only 30 centimetres in diameter from a distance of 120 metres. Each team has a noisy crowd of supporters who, as well as encouraging their own side and try to out off the opposition.

The game of archery is not exactly a sport that draws frenzied supporters out for a kill. There are no die-hard fans and no follow-the-team-to-kingdom-come fanatics. And no streaking hooligans.

If anyone is all pumped up, it is the archers themselves... To the Bhutanese, it's a tourist sport and a very saleable one at that too. It has tremendous tourist appeal. Archery is tradition; it's songs and dances and jeers and near-primitive howls. It's the works to someone seeking the unusual. All that could be just a facade.

Under the surface, and away from the real game, there's plenty a foot. More than a tourist could ever imagine and some locals too.
Every time a major archery tournament is on, be it in the village or at the capital, strange things are happening. Perfectly sane, and often well placed men, are doing things that would otherwise have been dubbed completely insane.


Divine intervention
Archery tournament (Photo: Kuensel Online, Bhutan)

Like everything else, the other side of archery begins with God. Every time a tournament is under way, there are suddenly silent, unassuming, sentinels at every sacred place. One archer can't quite forget his moment of triumph, even though it was not in the real game, and still gets ecstatic every time he regales listeners with the story.

Temples and deities are much, or most, sought during tournaments. Archers say the simplest short cut to victory is appeasing your protectors and carrying to the game a piece of anything blessed by the deities.

After the oblations, of wine and money, a roll of the dice is a must. There are, after all, more appeasements to be done if the fortunes told by the dice are bad. Divine intervention, albeit forbidden by the National Archery Federation of Bhutan now, is still much solicited. There have also been many instances when a little coercion is exercised.

A statue or other artefacts could find themselves reluctant bystanders to the game, covertly stowed away in a place of the team's choice.

There are many other strange practices that have become deeply entrenched into the game.

During the course of tournament, all members of the team must shack up together, whether they like it or not.

These have become almost matter-of-fact. For instance, all members of a team have to momentarily renounce the worldly comforts of home, wife included.

Vehicles and equipment are zealously guarded lest they be defiled by the opponent or touched by a jinx. The stars, or astrological charts are consulted. They dictate time and direction, often culminating in a team very casually strolling into the field, sideways or merely going AWOL until the eleventh hour. And it's not just the archers, the vehicles too are parked facing the same direction.

This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
Information on Bhutan
Photo Galleries
Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chhortens
Mongar and Lhuentse
Lhuentse Dzong
East-West-Highway by motorbike
Druk Air: Over the Himalayas
Trongsa Dzong
Tshechu and Drupchen Photo Gallery Tshechu in Wangdue Phodrang Video
About Bhutan
Trashigang About Trashigang
East- West- Highway
Bhutan: Photo Galleries and Videos
Bhutan Maps
Punakha Dzong
Lhuentse and Mongar
Trongsa and Zhemgang
Paro and Haa
Southern Bhutan
previous page Bhutan HOME