When in Paro, I got a chance to see an Archery Match in action. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport, and a sport that the Bhutanese take with seriousness. The other sport they play with similar passion is Darts. In both games, Bhutanese have applied complexity that goes beyond the regular versions of the games. Archery is done from a distance of almost 150 meters (or was it more) and the target is only about 25-30 cms in dia! In short, the archer aims to hit a tiny dot that’s barely visible. In darts too, a similar distance is applied.
Each village in Bhutan has an archery ground – and since it’s a long strip of narrow land, supposedly it is not very difficult to find such a location in this sparsely populated country. The match starts at 9 in the morning and goes up to 5 in the evening! Long day, it seems, but archers are pumped up and enjoy themselves to the hilt. There are two teams, and each time an archer hits the mark, his team does a bit of a dance, which is very entertaining to watch. Another entertaining feature is the group of supporting cheerleaders (Yes!), who sing praises for their team each time a member takes the bow, and hurl insults and jibes at the opposing team members. The enthusiasm is catching, and though many of the opposition members lost their concentration to the jumping girls , there were a few who hit the dots on mark! And each time they did, a scarf got added to their belt. The bows themselves are high-end sophisticated instruments imported from the US – costing as much as Ng 50,000 for the average archer. The more ambitious shooters of course go for the best in breed, whose cost can go in lakhs.
Phub kept insisting that people may call Punakha Dzong to be the most beautiful, but according to him, the Trongsa dzong was the most wonderful. On our way back from Bhumthang, we stopped at this dzong, and I have to agree that it is a very appealing dzong. It is perhaps the longest dzong, though not much in width, and is set in a most wonderful backdrop. Black Mountains lie right behind it and beyond them, perhaps on a clear day you can see the Himalyan ranges. Trongsa is an important district because the first king of Bhutan was a Governor of Trongsa, and even till now, all crown prices are awarded this title. It is a small town, but seems much better equipped than Wangdue. In the monastery, we found some original paintings, protected from grubby fingers by a curtain. Behind those curtains, some of the most beautiful art forms are preserved, and I hope they can stay preserved for long. In these paintings, natural colors have been used which gives them a pleasing aura.
The Cycling Dutch Girls
Right from the Kolkata airport, we had been crossing paths with three Dutch women who had come to Bhutan for a cycling tour. At the airport, we saw people wondrously looking at them and their cycles, and the astonishment at their proposed mission was visible on all those faces. In India, we cannot comprehend an urge to cycle for days around countryside. Except for morning walk, every other motion is only drawn out because of a necessity – not for pleasure.
In Paro/Thimpu and Wangdue, these women stayed at the same place as we did. Even in Bhutan, they generated a similar curiosity. They were cycling from Western to Eastern Bhutan, starting in Paro, going all the way to Tashigang and from there across to Assam. In Assam, they are not allowed to cycle, so they will take a train and resume cycling in Sikkim. Beautiful plan – only when I saw them sweating and getting a harsh tan, did the romance of the whole idea wear off a bit.