In 1971, with Bhutan opening up its long period of self-imposed isolation and becoming a member of the United Nations, archery was designated the national sport of Bhutan. With this, the modern form of the game played in tournament style started gaining popularity. Prior to this, archery was played as a celebration or a contest between two neighbouring villages or regions. The exposure of the Bhutanese to modern cultures and other modern sports influenced the way the game was played and eventually became popularized in the current tournament style of play.
With the passage of time and the participation of more and more teams, the need for an organization that would organize the tournaments and structure the rules of the game to suit modern styles was felt extremely necessary and thus the Bhutan Archery Federation was born. The Federation that first started functioning in the late 70′s initially consisted of a number of informal office bearers who were either appointed or volunteered but had no formal functions or mandates other than to ensure that tournaments were conducted in an organized manner with rudimentary rules and regulations.
It was only on 21 April 1990 that the Federation, then called the National Archery Federation of Bhutan, was formally constituted and the post of President was awarded to the then Minister of Home Affairs, His Excellency Lyonpo Dago Tshering. Following this, a number of Executive Committee members were appointed which, through a series of meetings, provided formal structures to the Federation, fixed responsibilities of the various members and reviewed and reaffirmed the rules and regulations for the sport of archery, which is still followed today with minor revisions and improvements.
Objectives of the BAF
The Bhutan Archery Federation is mandated to promote both forms of archery – the traditional archery played in national tournaments and the Olympic style of modern archery in which Bhutan has been participating in regional as well as major international competitions such as the Olympics since 1984. The objectives of the Federation are:
- To foster, expand, promote and perpetuate all forms of Field Archery, both Olympic and traditional, and to establish uniform rules, regulations, procedures, conditions and methods of practising such activities;
- To provide facilities for training and physical exercise in Archery and to render financial assistance to both individuals and organizations for the promotion of such training;
- To diffuse useful knowledge and modern techniques in sports and physical exercises by publishing literature in any form, including the rules of Archery as approved by the International Federation;
- To conduct national-level tournaments to determine National Champions in all forms of archery adopted by the BAF; and
- To represent the Kingdom in international archery through participation in international competitions.
Archery in Bhutan is more than a sport, it is a living example and a dynamic manifestation of the unique traditions and culture of the Bhutanese people, it is a celebration of the Bhutanese way of life. No festival and no celebration is complete without a game of archery and the game itself is a combination of physical talents and spiritual influences where the deities and spirits are called upon to help a player or a team to perform better and win the contest.