Skip to main content

From feathers to cellophane tapes

Picture by Kuenga Dendup
In Bhutan archery is more than a game. It is a rich cultural heritage. And for that matter archery was never even a hobby. For our forefathers, archery was not something that they could play every day or on weekends. But they could afford to shoot only a few times in a year during special occasions such as losar (New Year), where Bhutanese men would come out in big numbers to play. 

In our rural villages, farmers gather to shoot arrows only during these festive days. Even now. That's when one village would comepete with its neighboring villages and young men compete against the senior archers.   
Picture by Kuenga Dendup

However, in towns today, we have people playing archery almost everyday. And some archery ranges are always occupied. That's astounding. Sometimes, I marvel how these men could go on shooting day after day and also be able to feed their families. That makes me think that some of our men are playing archery full time. But that's a topic for another blog post. 

Today, urban archers play on heavy and expensive imported equipment. These equipment are used as hunting tools in the west. Here, they are highly valued possesions. Sometimes the type of shooting equipment also determines the archers' social status. 
Picture by Kuenga Dendup

Today, in the national competitions, the authorities would not allow archers to use modified traditional equipment to take part in the tounament. They insisted that we must follow our tradition. But do we realize that imported equipment is gradually killing our traditional bows and arrows? Bhutanese archers have modified the tranditional bows in the shape and form of their imported cousins and use modern bowstrings, which are durable compared to our traditional neetle-fibre bowstrings.

Picture by Kuenga Dendup
Traditionally, feathers are sourced from beautiful birds that dwell in the high altitude regions. These birds are endangered species and we need to protect them. And with our environmental conservation policy that prohibits from killing these birds it is only proper that we resort to better substitutes. In fact some innovative archers had discovered that cellophane tapes make the best susbstitute. Necessity, indeed, is the mother of invention! 

All cultural practices must evolve and develop. Same logic applies to our national sport. That's why I feel modified bows and arrows should be allowed in national archery tournaments and even encouraged. What is heartening is now Bhutan Archery Federation is training our young people with the modified recurve bows. Welcome news! 
Picture by Bhutan Archery Federation


Comments

  1. You just shared an interesting topic using the wise title of From Feathers to Cellophane Tapes! How clever! LOL
    We don't have such traditional games of archery here, so I appreciate to learn some insight how it is being observed and carried out in Bhutan since ancient times. Here, the archery is a special sports activity which is being played by few until the World Olympics level.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your time. Archery is the national sport in Bhutan. Two targets are placed about 476 feet apart. Each archer is allowed to shoot two arrows. Each hit earns him two points while if his arrow lands closer to the target by an arrow's length, he earns one point. Hitting on the bull's eye is equal to three solid points. Each team consists of 11 players each. Here is something I wrote about archery years ago: http://www.nawangpenstar.com/2011/02/where-archery-is-more-than-shooting.html and another one here http://www.nawangpenstar.com/2011/09/way-out-for-our-national-sport.html

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for taking time to enlighten me. I am impressed and always wished to shoot some arrows someday! Perhaps at my boss at work!! Muahahahaaha

      Delete

Post a Comment

So what do you think?

Popular posts from this blog

Our throw-it-away culture

Like all grandparents, my late grandma would call food 'tsampa rimpoche' and any fuss made about it would invite everyone's sneer and scoldings. Food is always treated with respect and is never wasted. "If you waste food in any manner," she would admonish us. "One day food will discard you and you will go hungry." 
What remained from the previous meal would be turned either into porridge or sometimes leftover rice would be dried in the sun. The dried rice would then be fried into puffed rice and consumed with cups of suja. When there was so much food left, especially during big events, leftover rice or kharang would be mixed with a small amount of yeast and brewed into ara.  
The only thing that I can vividly recollect from my primary school days is how we would be hungry most of the time. Food we were served was hardly enough to tickle our throats. We would be sent home only once a week on Saturdays and that was our opportunity to replenish our popcorn s…

Alive and kicking

This feels like ages since I last posted anything here. That shows how inactive I have become on my blog. It is such a pain to let it go empty, day after day. And I am sure that all bloggers share the same sentiments.

I have attempted to blog about something for a long time now, only to find myself failing to do so. Maybe that is my laziness. But sometimes, there is nothing new or interesting to blog about. Topics are crucial. As far as my idea of blogging goes, a post cannot be a mere record of personal events - everyday affairs - although there can be blogs about such topics and interests. For example, the one I am writing now - has nothing about anything in particular,  besides citing some personal excuses.

Bhutan is going through yet another interesting era in that we have just had our third parliamentary elections and the new government is in place. I take this opportunity to welcome the new government and a new set of cabinet members, the speaker of the National Assembly and th…

The Story Thief

When we were growing up in a small village in the central Bhutan, we would gather around our grandparents every evening in a room that would be dimly lit with a kerosene lamp. Our grandparents or the elderly members of the family would then take turns to entertain us (siblings and cousins who lived under the same roof) with their stories. Such was the only form of entertainment we had had then.  
Our grandparents would start their stories, which they probably would have heard them from their grandparents. A young poor boy becomes a successful farmer by a turn of luck, a man fights a bear, a poor boy accidentally marries a rich man's beautiful daughter, a lame monkey helps a boy find great wealth, a rooster regrets his action after he mistakenly accuses his wife and young men go on business trips to buy cattle, among many others. We grew up listening to many such stories. Sometimes, the storyteller would narrate the same story again and again, and yet every time it sounded more magi…