Archery: The ban on the use of the Monal-feathered arrows during the traditional archery tournament has left the archery teams divided.

Of 22 teams, 14 boycotted the upcoming Jigme Dorji Wangchuck memorial national tournament, at the meeting that the Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Association (BIGSA) called to draw up the fixture.

An archer, Ugyen, said that not using the Monal-feathered arrows during such tournaments would diminish the country’s rich culture and tradition.

“The tradition has been passed on for generations, we can’t just change that,” he said.

Ugyen said that the authorities that imposed the ban should find out whether people hunt the bird for its meat or for the feather first.

“It was not the archers’ responsibility to find out who hunts the bird and for what reasons,” he said.

Archers said that they could not compromise with their age-old tradition.

“We have been playing archery using the Monal-feathered arrows for so long, we cannot use just any other substitute for this,” he said. “We better don’t play the tournament at all.”

Another participant, Ngawang Thinley said that the concerned ministry should conduct a survey to find out the actual number of the birds in the country.

“We don’t even know if they are correct when they say the birds are decreasing in number,” he said. “We need proof.”

BIGSA technical officer, Pema Dawa said that BIGSA did not impose the ban and that it was just complying with government decision.

“We had our orders, we are just following them,” he said.

He said that all the teams were given several opportunities to reconsider and register again for the tournament but nobody turned up. “The fixture is drawn and it cannot be revoked now,” he said.

Some of the participants who agreed to the terms said that the love for the game is enough for them to play with any kind of feather.

“We are fine using other feathers and plastics as fletches for our arrow,” a participant said.

The Eastern United team captain, Jamtsho, said that his team also would not have participated if it were not for the trophy. Eastern United has won the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck memorial national tournament twice in a row. If they win this year they will take home the rolling trophy. “I personally think they should allow the use of the Monal fletches, as it has been our tradition,” he said.

Last year in November agriculture and forests ministry issued a notification that the use of Monal-feathered arrows will be allowed for the last time during the Druk Wangyal national archery tournament after a meeting with BIGSA and ministry officials.

By Younten Tshedup