Centuries-Old Tradition of Archery Gambling Still Alive in Meghalaya

by Kathy Jones on  June 25, 2013 at 11:42 PM Lifestyle News   - G J E 4
The centuries-old tradition of Siat Khnam, or Shoot Arrow, where in people take part in an archery contest and gamble by placing bets, remains alive in Meghalaya's capital city of Shillong where men from the northeast India's Khasi tribe take part in the game.
 Centuries-Old Tradition of Archery Gambling Still Alive in Meghalaya
Centuries-Old Tradition of Archery Gambling Still Alive in Meghalaya

Today, participants choose a two-digit number and place a bet on that number. The sum of their haul, if they win, depends on the amount they pay to participate in the game.

Everyone draws their bows and arrows and begins shooting. Arrows fly through the air, as each archer tries to strike the target, located about 50 metres (150 feet) from them.

Only the arrows that stick to the target -- a bamboo barrel-like structure -- are counted, not the ones that fall off.

The arrows are counted and the last two digits of the number make up the winning bet, so if 285 arrows hit the target then whoever chose 85 wins.

If no one gets lucky, the money is added to the pool for the next game.

The game hit a rough patch during the 1950s and 1960s when local governments outlawed the practice.

But officials eventually overturned the ban since the game was deemed much too popular and an important source of income for the archers involved.

After it was legalised in October 1982, allowing bookies to buy licences to gamble, its popularity returned. The game is played twice a day, every afternoon except on Sundays and public holidays.

India boasts a strong record of sporting success in archery and the country's Hindu epics are packed with tales of princes famed for their prowess with a bow and and arrow.

In this remote corner of the country however, although some archers play in league tournaments organised by local clubs, most simply turn up for a good time, part of a sizeable herd devoted to carrying on an old tradition.

Source: AFP

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