Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Archery an undying game for me

I do not exactly remember when and how I learned to play archery, the national game of Bhutan. But now, I can immensely derive pleasure out of playing this traditional game. Since I was an infant, this game used to be popular in my village and competitions were held among the villagers especially during Losar (Dawa Dhangpa, Dawa Nyepa, Ngyempa Gu zom, Thribap, or on other special occasions). 
Aiming position, making sure to hit the target
 I remember as a little boy, how we used to play   archery in our village. Just like the elders we young boys go crazy after this game.We used to organize competitions among ourselves. In those days hitting the target in every round was not a big problem. With self- made bow and arrows we were equally good in scoring points. 

About to release the arrow
Once it was losar, and the elders were having competition. It was time for their lunch. Three of us who were still too early to participate in their team just went to take the advantage of their absence to see whether we could reach their target range. It was my turn to shoot my first arrow. I released it, of course flying it from the zenith, hit the target.  

After release position

Elders were just laughing. Then I released my second arrow. It went from the same height. Surprisingly, it also landed on the target. Elders started coming to see my arrows landed on the target. They really appreciated my success and capacity. From next losar, I got a license to play in elders’ team. Thanks for that Dobji!

My friends getting ready for the practice, 2011
There was no separate space for the archery. We used to play in the open ground or Aring (paddy field) because the Losars usually fall somewhere in winter. There would be usually two teams for the match, namely Gonpa pa (people residing in higher altitude) and Krongpa/Pampa (People residing in lower altitude) or Gathpo (old men) and Zhun ba (young men).  The prominent spaces where we used to play are Sang Sa be, Phu mi tag pa, Barpa sa, Tek tek lai pang and Gu li pang thang.  Phu mi tag pa is supposed to be the longest target range and Tek tek lai pang as the shortest. People who don’t play would come and witness the game. They cheer up and encourage the team.
An archer with an artificial  foreign bow
The practice of feeding our opponent team member (byjing chay-sow) is still there in our village. One has to feed the opponent team member for a night/day. Next day it will be opponent team member’s turn to feed the other. The host has to provide special food with the drinks if he takes. The losar celebration would last for two to three days where archers and their wife/family would gather in one of the houses to fest themselves. in  the evening of the final day.The event would not be without Ara and banchang. They dance and sing until it is dawn.
Just two years old archer about to release his arrow

Traditionally, women are not allowed to touch an archer's bow and arrows, and it is believed that if an archer sleeps with a woman or a girl a night before the contest, it will have negative effects on its performance the next day. So, the men avoid sleeping with the women if there is any archery match the next day. Some they even go out of their house to spend their night in Lhakhangs and Nyekhangs carrying their bows and arrows. I believe this practice is still being followed by most of the archers in the country. 
Biginner in practice, trying hard to reach the target

Even today, I feel restless when we have planned to have the matches. Sometimes I wish that it would have been nice to have the match on the very day. I cannot wait for the day. I have the habit to open my quiver and examine my arrows twice a day (once in the morning and once before I go to bed) to make sure that they are straight.  I get satisfied even with a Karey in a day/match. I do not mind whether it is a scorching sunny day or rainy day, I am ready to rush to the play ground if someone is ready to accompany me or invite for their team! Though I am not a sharp shooter, I must continue to play until my breath stops. That’s for sure.    

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I am glad that you still continue that burning passion. How I love to shoot arrows! But somehow, I find myself not shooting anymore. It is been a while now. I don't know if it is due to absence of archery ranges in this part of the country or the presence of foreign shooting equipment; intimidating and sidelining any traditional forms of shooting the target. Keep shooting while you can, Kuenga. And yeah, you bring in lots of memories from all those archery ranges. Maybe one of these days, we should go home and shoot arrows once more. Just let me know.