A trio of dogs loll on their sides in the morning sun, oblivious to the arrows whooshing invisibly above them at 200 mph. When the shafts appear with a telltale thwack in the foot-wide oblong targets, the dozy beasts don’t even bother looking over. The hundred or so spectators in the bleachers here at the Changlimithang Archery Ground in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, are another matter. Like true fans everywhere, they know to arrive with cushions and cardboard panels to sit on. Among them are a dozen monks, who have come by taxi and will have to return to their monasteries by the end of lunch. But more enthusiastic still are the players on the field: each time an archer lands a shot, his teammates clad in ghos, the knee-length, white-cuffed robes that Bhutanese men wear, stream around the targets to strut, yelp, and sing, even flashing a little thigh as they kick their legs like cancan dancers.
In the face of an explosion of modern games, thanks largely to cable TV, Bhutan’s traditional sports – despite the government’s pledge to promote them – are on the brink of extinction.
Since ancient times, she has been revered and worshipped by the archers and the locals of Changzamtog. Now, even soccer players, volleyball players or basketball players join archers to seek her divine intervention to help win games.