If someone had said to me a year ago that Archery is a sport – nay – a way of income for the Assamese people, I’d have never believed you. This afternoon we headed down to the Shillong Polo Club to see the daily Archery being played. Initially standing in the public area looking very much like tourists, we soon found our groove and were treated like royalty by the organisers. Tourists are uncommon in those parts. History which has drifted from Nepal and Bhutan into this region of India, has brought this ancient sport back to the fore. It is a means of income for many, and a source of addiction, just like any gambling is.
It’s a special thing to see though; men and boys squat low with a handmade bow and a quiver of unique arrows. Over a few minutes, hundreds of arrows are flung at a straw target.
To bet on this sport, one has to guess the number of arrows in the final target, out of 100, but only down to the last two digits. Today’s round one total came to 759, so 59 was the winning number. Second round had 612 arrows in the target, so the winning number was 12. You get to pick as many numbers as you like for a set fee.
There is beauty in the detail of this sport, so I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.
Many archers wait to start the round.
An archer sorts and checks his arrows before the next round.
The crowd watch the counting of the final number of arrows
Officials count and double check the final amount of arrows that landed in the target.
An archer checks the integrity of his arrows.
Officials continue to sort and count the final number, starting with a pile.
Arrows in the target
Archers wait for the next round to start
An archer lines up his shot
The bookie watches all official proceedings, even helps with the final tallies
My lucky numbers?! Not so lucky, but oh well.