Shijal ChudasamaJanuary 24, 2023

A robust archery tradition in Meghalaya, northeastern India

A robust archery tradition in Meghalaya, northeastern India

Indigenous people in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya practice archery as part of their traditional rituals.

On a platform, 30 archers with bamboo bows and arrows are waiting for instructions. They then aim for a straw cylinder that is 60 feet away and 18 meters long. In four minutes, they each have 34 arrows to shoot.

Their actions are deliberate and practiced as they release one arrow after another. The archers must next shoot 24 arrows in three minutes in the following round of the competition.

Shillong, the state capital of Meghalaya in northeastern India, is a thriving center for the age-old art of archery. This event is conducted every day, excluding Sundays and state holidays, next to a motor garage and behind a row of liquor stores.

In Meghalaya, archery is a part of Indigenous peoples' customary rituals, and its history has been passed down through the generations through folklore. The Khasi Hills Archery Sports Institute establishes the competition's rules.

The indigenous people of the state are the Khasis, the Jaintias, and the Garos.

Since he was 11 years old, Matias Jyrwa, now 58, has attended the same location with his father to watch the spectacle. He has trained his sons to continue the practice and is a skilled archer.

"Few young people, particularly those from cities, are interested. The majority of archers come from rural, where it is still very common, according to Jyrwa, the general secretary of the archery institute.

An older kind of archery is practiced in many of the state's communities. The archers must shoot a much smaller target that is put on a stick, and they can intimidate foes by reciting "phawar," a four-line poem they create on the moment.

The odd combination of this customary activity with the wagering industry, known as "teer," however, is what keeps the tradition alive.

The capital city, noted for its upscale cafes, football, and a thriving live music scene, is dotted with dozens of little kiosks that are frequently constructed from recycled iron sheets and wood.

By guessing the final two numbers of the archery results at these kiosks, one can wager modest sums of money and, if the guesses are accurate, multiply the money by multiple. Due to the little amount of money gambled and the allure of a prize, the counters have steady daytime traffic.

Following the event, the final two outcomes are revealed, and participants and kiosk operators can watch the event live on YouTube.

The word "tim," which is derived from the English word "team," is the local Khasi term for betting. Shillong residents used to wager on polo teams while the British were in control of India and had a major presence there, but they have since changed the practice to wager on other things.

The most successful gamblers, so the local lore goes, choose the appropriate, or lucky, numbers to bet on based on their dreams. However, some people have embraced more contemporary techniques to aid in making a decision.

A young man working at one of the kiosks named Bantei offers consumers access to an app on his smartphone that they may use to identify their lucky numbers and place bets.

A robust archery tradition in Meghalaya, northeastern India
A robust archery tradition in Meghalaya, northeastern India
A robust archery tradition in Meghalaya, northeastern India
A robust archery tradition in Meghalaya, northeastern India
A group of local men practice archery on a ridge overlooking the Laitlum Canyon, about 20km (12 miles) from Shillong. [Ashwini Bhatia/AP Photo]
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