Why Is Archery The National Sport of Bhutan
Why Is Archery The National Sport of Bhutan
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge playing the national sport of Bhutan

Call it love for the sport or tradition; most Bhutanese men have an unleashed passion for archery, the national sport of Bhutan.   

Archery is played almost all across Bhutan. It celebrates the traditional Bhutanese life and varies significantly from the international game. 

The Himalayan nation declared archery the national sport of Bhutan in 1971. It was also the time the Buddhist kingdom became a member of the United Nations.  However, this sport has a long history dating back to the 17th century. 

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a prominent Buddhist leader and statesman is said to have traveled from Tibet to Bhutan and played archery with the upland nomads.  

Before we dive deeper into the history of the national sport of Bhutan, there are many interesting facts about Bhutan we are sure you are going to love. Why not learn more about travel information to Bhutan and plan the trip of your dreams?

An Overview Of The National Sport Of Bhutan   

An Overview Of The National Sport Of Bhutan
The prevalence of the national sport of Bhutan can be traced back to the 17th century 

Archery became more prevalent across Bhutan in the late 1920s, during the reign of the then Dragon King, and has since become an essential part of Bhutanese life. 

Given the level of love with which Bhutanese embrace the national sport of Bhutan, archery is inarguably one of the most played sports in Bhutan. 

The celebration creates a unique ambiance that even tourists can’t help but participate in the national sport of Bhutan. Staying at the beautiful Himalayan lodges and retreats, tourists get a chance to immerse themselves in this special experience. The thrill of seeing an arrow strike a target from at least 100 meters away is unrivaled.  

Along with the sport, cheering and dancing generate a spirit of sportsmanship that is hard to encounter elsewhere. 

Many locals join to witness the matches, providing an excellent opportunity for the visitors to engage with them and learn about their cultural idiosyncrasies.  

Archer’s team erupts in cheers if the arrow strikes the target. The opposing team leaps in front to mock the archer if it flies too far. In either case, each round is met with equal excitement and, sometimes, a sip of alcohol.      

Why Is Archery The National Sport Of Bhutan?  

Why Is Archery The National Sport Of Bhutan?
The national sport of Bhutan is primarily made of bamboo.

Archery is firmly ingrained in Bhutanese culture, and that is why it is the national sport of Bhutan.. It was first used for hunting and battling, most notably in 1864-65 against the Tibetan invasions. 

The national sport of Bhutan evolved into a multiplayer game performed by rulers, their subordinates, and local villagers.   

Bhutanese men enjoyed spending time outside until 1999 when archery clearly took prevalence upon declaring it as the national sport of Bhutan. 

But, above all, there are stories and legends that could help explain why archery is an obsession and the national sport of Bhutan.  

During the late nineteenth-century Duar War involving Bhutan and the British, Jigme Namgyal, the father of the First Dragon King, is said to have launched an arrow from afar, praying to Yeshey Gonpo, the chief Bhutan’s protective deity.  

The arrow was shot from atop a hill and landed on the British general’s forehead, killing him. As impressive as this story is, the mark of archery in Bhutanese mythology dates back far further.

Since then, archery has been a hallmark of Bhutanese culture, not only in the military but also in religion. In both their peaceful and wrathful forms, deities and gods are commonly depicted with bows and arrows.      

A Bhutanese Way Of life 

A Bhutanese Way Of life
Celebratory dances of the national sport of Bhutan

The national sport of Bhutan is more than simply a sport; it’s a way of life and reflects Bhutan’s rich history and tradition.

Since archery is more than a mere sport, the players must also engage in dancing and singing. Family members also participate, making it a social gathering.

Each team typically has its singers and dancers. They are there to support the team and distract their opponents by singing and dancing, crowding around the target, and mocking the archer’s abilities.  

As the players shoot from one end of the archery range to the other, there is a lot of walking involved. They must be tough to shuttle between the two targets, set apart by 145 meters. 

Apart from the spectacular festivities, including traditional dress, the players are allowed to consume alcohol in the national sport of Bhutan.  

Traditional Bhutanese Archery Game – Description  

Traditional Bhutanese Archery Game - Description
The national sport of Bhutan has a set of rules

Bhutanese archery varies significantly from the international standard of the game.

Traditional Bhutanese Archery, for example, has a 145-meter range, which is twice as long as an Olympic range. 

Each team comprises 13 players and two substitutes. The opposing teams line up near the goal at the far end of the field. 

Here is how archery is played in Bhutan

  1. Archers shoot a pair of arrows at a time, taking turns. 
  2. If the archer hits within a meter length from the target, they receive a point.
  3. If they hit the target, they gain two points. 
  4. If they strike the bull’s eye, they receive three points.
  5. The teams take turns shooting the arrows, and the team with the most points at the end wins. 

However, the rules in the national sport of Bhutan are complex to understand. A bullseye, for example, erases the previous archer’s score. 

It’s surprising to see that locals value tournaments held on their home turf more than those held at the Olympics.

They argue that the range in the Olympics is substantially shorter and that modern technology cannot equal the richness of the traditional equipment. 

Women’s Role In Archery 

Women's Role In Archery
Women’s role in the national sport of Bhutan

Although men are predominantly the participants in the sport, women make every effort to contribute to the national sport of Bhutan.

We’ve seen a slight increase in females involved in the game in recent years. Many people, however, still regard archery as a male-dominant sport.

Even though women do not compete as archers, they play a significant role in packing lunches and alcohol for their families. 

Women cater meals and snacks, dance for excitement when their team hits the target, and sing to encourage their team. 

This serves as an excellent source of incentive for the players, who’re expected to win the game. For this reason, their involvement in archery is essential, as they provide support for the tournament, trebling the excitement.  

Today’s Archery in Bhutan 

Today's Archery in Bhutan
The use of modern equipment in the national sport of Bhutan

Archery has become a popular tourist attraction in Bhutan, as many people wish to experience the unique and boisterousness closely linked with the national sport of Bhutan.

While many villages still stick to the traditional handcrafted bamboo bows, the archers who play tournaments use more advanced equipment.  

Although traditional bows and arrows are primarily made of bamboo, the national sport of Bhutan is now played with modern equipment like the compound bow. 

To keep it coherent with the tradition, the compound bows do not have high-tech sights and are played on long ranges equivalent to the traditional range. 

Even so, the people are undeterred in their cherished heritage, with many believing the Olympians would fail miserably on their home turf. 

The national sport of Bhutan is undoubtedly one of the unique things to experience in Bhutan, providing a fascinating glimpse into a burgeoning cultural phenomenon in the Last Shangrila. The national sport of Bhutan is still evolving as people attempt to master the art via their abilities and modern tech. 

Notwithstanding the challenges faced while playing the sport, it uplifts people, and the national sport of Bhutan continues to strive.

Why is it that the Bhutanese play archery differently from the rest of the world? You might wonder. Well, there is no better place than Bhutan to find the answer. All you have to do is plan a trip to Bhutan with Norbu Bhutan.   

Want to learn more about the culture and beauty in Bhutan? You might want to read 9 Reasons Why Bhutan Should Be On Your Travel Bucket List.   

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