Nepali Times Asian Paints
Sports
Straight as an arrow


ALOK TUMBAHANGPHEY



KIRAN PANDAY

Celebrated over three days in spring, the Thakali Toran-La festival is a community event that includes ancestor worship, merry-making, gambling for women and archery for men.

Archery was an important skill for a Thakali man in Mustang not just for hunting but for defence against marauding bandits. During Toran-La, archers take aim at a target shaped like a human figure. Each archer is allowed to use two arrows and given 20 shots over 10 rounds. Bets are placed and the winner is the marksman who hits the target most often, scoring more points for piercing the heart. During this week's festival in Kathmandu, archers earned Rs 200 per hit.

Now, archery is going beyond tradition and Nepalis are turning to the modern version of the sport.

After so many generations of playing at the annual festival it was natural that a few skilled marksmen would emerge among Thakalis and today they are starting to train their arrows far beyond Mustang.

Ramesh Bhattachan in November took part in Nepal's first-ever entry to an international archery competition and Yogendra Sherchan was a member of the Nepali team at the First South Asian Archery Championship in Dhaka in February.

While Bhattachan's team finished 11th at the 14th Asian Archery Championship in Delhi, Sherchan and his three teammates won the bronze medal competing against Bhutan.

"We were ecstatic when we beat Bhutan because they are considered to be one of the best in archery," he says.

No doubt the annual Thakali games have helped people like Sherchan cultivate their skills. The 33-year-old from Lete in Mustang has taken part in annual Toran-La festivals since he was a teenager. "Modern archery is different from its traditional form in terms of equipment and rules but the basic skills required are the same," he explained. "During Toran-La we just play for fun but it was from here that my interest in the sport came up."


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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