It’s 10am. The otherwise bustling town of Trashigang wears a deserted look. The busy Saturday streets remain forsaken. Residents, vendors and shopkeepers have left for a local tshechu in the nearby gewogs.

But a game of archery is on-going below the bus terminal.

Led by their respective mangmis, teams from Merak and Yangnyer gewogs have gathered for a friendly archery match.

Donning their traditional red attire, Chuba, the team from Merak is singing their hearts out. With 25 points, the highlanders have won the first set of the game. The team goes on to win the second set with 16 points against Yangnyer’s two.

“It is a friendly match but both the teams are playing to win,” said Merak mangmi, Phurpa.

He said the match was organised to connect the people of the two gewogs and at the same time promote traditional archery.

“Compound archery has become so popular that even in Merak, people are now playing archery with compound bows,” he added. “We cannot afford to lose this ancient tradition of our culture.”

The mangmi said he formed a team comprising young adults in order to encourage youth to keep the tradition alive.

The youngest player, Sonam Dorji is 17. “I was very excited when I was asked to join the team to play in Trashigang,” he said. “I’ve been playing archery since the age of nine. I can never get enough of this game.”

Sonam Dorji left school after failing to qualify for class XI last year. He spends his time helping parents and playing archery in Merak. “I’m not in my best form today but I’m hopeful that I would hit a few more karays before the game ends.”

Yangnyer mangmi, Tshewang Gyeltshen, said archers from the highland have shown great skills in archery. “They beat us few years ago and went on to bag the second price in Mongar,” he said. “But the game today is more of fun and about cooperation among local governments.”

The mangmi said that by indulging in such games, it was an opportunity for local leaders to understand the challenges of the sport’s facilities.

“We can see that the lone archery range in Trashigang needs further improvements in terms of cleanliness and a decent space for spectators to enjoy the game,” he said. “We would like to raise these issues in the upcoming dzongkhag tshogdu. This is how the local government would like to promote sports.”

The mangmi said that similar friendly matches would be conducted among other gewogs in future.

Younten Tshedup  | Trashigang