Archery contest commemorates historical event

Shillong: Hundreds of tribal archers from all over Khasi-Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya on Wednesday took part in an archery competition commemorating the first attack on a British garrison by a legendary Khasi king and freedom fighter.

It was on April 4, 1829 that the legendary U Tirot Sing Syiem led the first attack on the British garrison at Nongkhlaw, which then changed the course of history in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills.

The archery competition was organised to commemorate this historical event attracting hundreds of archers, which is an inalienable part of the Khasi-Jaintia culture.

“The annual competition also gives encouragement to other Khasi ‘states’ (Himas) to organise such events in order to protect and promote this ancient sport,” says Sumar Sing Sawian, organising secretary of the Apphira Archery Committee, which organized the 23rd annual competition called Ka Rongbiria Ki Hima Ka Ri Hynniewtrep on Wednesday.

“Arrows, which are called Khnam in Khasi are an integral part of our life from birth to death,” he says.

Three arrows are part of the naming ritual performed after the birth of a Khasi boy, Sawian says.

“One arrow symbolises the defence of one’s own self, another for the defence of the family and the other defence of the clan,” he says.

“Three arrows are shot towards the north, south and west before lighting a funeral pyre. These arrows are meant to safeguard the soul of the deceased in its journey towards the divine abode,” Sawian says adding that archery has been an integral part of the Khasi-Jaintia culture since time immemorial.

The Khasi-Jaintia Hills abound with myths is associated with archery too.

In Khasi mythology, it is the Divine Mother Ka Mei Hukum, who governs the world of archery. Her blessings are sought before the commencement of every game of archery.

So popular is archery here that the game is held every day of the week except on Sunday, based on the outcome of which, fortunes are won or lost.

Teer, as it is called, is a traditional form of betting which has since been legalised in the State.

It sustains the age-old sport of archery of the indigenous people and has no parallel elsewhere in the world.

For those who have luck on their side, Teer offers the maximum returns for the most minimum bets in the world.

The game involves a row of archers shooting at a circular target made of hay. The number of arrows that remain on the counting frame after several rounds of shooting is the lucky number for the day. (PTI)