In a distance, men revelling amid shouts and cheers fill the air. A traditional song follows that culminates to more shouts and cheers. One can easily tell there is an archery match happening in the neighbourhood.
Those passing by pause for a while to see if the arrow sent off from one end makes anywhere near the target. Archers on the same team close in to help their mate narrow the aim. As the arrow descends, the excitement peaks.
And in that instant, lives change. Or worse, lives are lost. So it’s been in recent years for the national game of archery.
Sports, driven by passion and adrenaline, often spawn injuries. But in Bhutan, except for the minor strains, one sport that claims lives has been archery.
The last accident was reported in September when a man in the east was hit during the thruebab celebrations. Media, at intervals, report of fatalities emerging out of archery tournaments and leisure matches.
Stories on other platforms, including social media, delve into how authorities should introduce precautions and standards to bring about safety at the archery field. Yet, nothing much has changed.
Biases probably come from the fact that archery is the national game, and that the sport has been a part of Bhutanese tradition for generations.
From the days the tools were used as weapons to hunt, to crafting bows and arrows for children to play in place of toys, to becoming one of the main events during festive days, archery has been a part of life. In fact, it went on to become one sport Bhutan indulged in at the Olympics.
Some say the problem started when, in place of bamboos, archery was played using imported compound bows. With the science applied to it, compound bows came with magnified impact.
Suggestions have been made to authorities to promote traditional archery equipment among Bhutanese players. That would, in turn, keep the traditional aspects intact while dissuading people from investing good amount to fetch imported bows and arrows.
While almost every free range is converted to an archery field, it is found important for authorities to allocate areas away from crowd, with adequate boundaries. Besides encouraging safety gears, it was crucial to ban alcohol that triggered impudence at such events.
Archery in Bhutan is a way of socialisation and celebration. Therefore, preventive initiatives have to be brought about fast, before festivities turn into that of lament.