Archery or ‘Dha’ is the national sport of Bhutan. It is an exclusively male sport but women do participate in the rituals of dancing accompanying the game and give verbal encouragements to the archers. Traditional long bamboo bows and arrows are increasingly being replaced by more expensive and sophisticated imported state-of-the-art compound bows. Bhutanese have always been passionate about their national game and there is an archery range in almost all the villages of Bhutan. Each dzong in Bhutan has a separate space as ‘Bha Cho’ or field of target. Competitions and archery contests are quite colorful and bubbles with excitement. There are often two teams, wearing traditional Bhutanese dresses, competing with each other. Small wooden targets for archers are placed 140 m apart, as opposed to the Olympics, where 50 m is the standard distance.
The team members often huddle very close to the target to encourage him, emphasizing that archer’s aim is good enough to keep them safer. It is not uncommon for the opponent team members to pass sarcastic comments on archers, howl at them and crack jokes about their bad aim to distract them. If the archer hits the mark, he tucks a colored scarf into his belt, while his team-members perform a celebratory slow-motion dance and sing his praises. In major tournaments, girls accompany the team as the cheerleaders, bedecked in their finest clothes and perform dances between the play. They also have brief routines to perform during the shooting. Sometimes, they shout lewd remarks to insult the opponent teams’ archers and make disparaging comments about their parentage or sexual prowess in order to make him falter.
Traditionally, women are not allowed to touch an archer's bow and it is believed that if an archer sleeps with a woman a night before the contest, it will have negative effects on its performance the next day. Nowadays, Bhutanese archers are encouraged to train for the Olympics and international coaches have praised them for their natural talent. Women are encouraged to pick up archery for Olympics too these days. The Bhutan National Archery Federation organizes two national archery tournaments a year - the contest with only traditional bamboo bows takes place in Dechenchoeling in May while the other contest is open to archers using modern imported equipment. Archery matches in Bhutan are worth a visit because of their picturesqueness and uniqueness.