Archery has been described as a “celebration of the Bhutanese way of life.” Although archery became Bhutan’s national sport only in 1971, love for the sport dates back more than 1500 years, when an Indian prince proved his aim, accuracy, and strength in an archery contest to win the heart of a beautiful princess. Historically, the bow and arrow have aided the Bhutanese in battle, and today archery is a symbol of festivity and athletic competition.
Nearly every village in Bhutan has an archery field, and no celebration is complete without an archery contest and mask dances. Traditional tournaments between villages are contests for honor, and include feasts and prizes. Targets at traditional Bhutanese tournaments are placed at both ends of a 145 meter range. Archers shoot arrows at each target on the opposite end of the range. Competitors dance in celebration when archers hit their target. Although traditional Bhutanese bows and arrows were made of bamboo, most tournament archers today use modern compound bows from the United States.