Archery – ‘the celebration of the Bhutanese way of life’

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, just imagine that it’s going to launch you into something great!”

Archery or “Datse”, as locally called in Dzongkha language is the national sport of Bhutan. The much celebrated sport can be traced back in 600 B.C., used as an essential tool for hunting and war battles. In course of time, it has evolved into a social game enjoyed by all, whether be it the royals or the locals. Archery gained popularity following its official recognition in 1971; while the kingdom joined the United Nations the same year.

The traditional Bhutanese bows commonly known as zhu are made of bamboo with twisted stinging nettle strings. The arrows are lead–tipped bamboo sticks with bird feathers. While professional archers use the compound bows for international tournaments, these traditional bow and arrows are still preferred by the locals during festivals. The bow and arrow represents a religious significance in the life of the Bhutanese and their culture as they use it in different ceremonies, rituals, and other social activities.

No festival or celebration in Bhutan is considered complete without archery and mask dances. Besides the striking cultural celebration of the local festivals (Tsechu), majority are drawn to the traditional archery tournaments held among the villagers – the battles for honor.

Bhutanese band performing in a local archery tournament

With two teams passionately competing with each other, the archers of each team stare down visualizing by mind onto the small wooden targets, placed at the end of a 145 meters range (double the Olympic distance of 90 meters). Each team has their own set of singers and dancers performing varied traditional songs and dances about love, enlightenment, and karma.

A common yet surprising sight is of the natives standing casually next to the targets cheering enthusiastically for their teams as well as mocking and distracting their opponents, passing comments on poor aims. At a successful attempt of hitting the target, teammates celebrate with a slow motion dance praising the shooter who tucks a colourful scarf into his belt. It is a remarkable sport deep rooted in Bhutanese culture as a symbol of festivity and rivalry.

Women dressed in their traditional attire – Kira entertaining the audience with their dance performance

Witnessing such a lively social event is an unparallel experience on its own as ‘Archery is the celebration of the Bhutanese way of life.’

According to Prince Jigyel Ugyen -“Buddhism is about emptying your mind, and so is archery,” “Once you pull the bow, you forget about everything else and find complete bliss. And if you can hold that mentality for 24 hours and 365 days, that’s enlightenment.”

Kailas – Mansarovar Kora

Mt. Kailash and Chiu Monastery

For centuries Mount Kailas is known as the most sacred pilgrimage destination in Asia. It is common for pilgrims to circumambulate the sacred mountain, commonly called Kora (Pilgrimage Circuit) or Parikrama. Often pilgrims encompass both the Mansarovar Lake and Mt. Kailas in a quest to wash away the sins of their life time.

Mt. Kailas, at 6714m, stands tall and unique from the rest of the mountains. It is accessed via the small town of Darchen, the starting point of the kora.
The mountain is known in Tibetan as Kang Rinpoche or ‘Precious Jewel of Snow’. It has major beliefs for different religions. Hindus believe Mt. Kailas to be the abode of Lord Shiva and Lake Mansarovar to be a creation of Brahma. To the Buddhists, it is home to Demchok, an infuriated manifestation of Sakyamuni.

Lake Mansarovar

Lake Mansarovar is considered one of the most sacred lakes in the world. According to ancient Hindu and Buddhist cosmology, the four great rivers of the Indian subcontinent, the Indus, Ganges, Sutlej, and Brahmaputra, arise from Mansarovar. Pilgrims circumambulate the lake and bathe in its holy waters. Legend has it that the mother of the Buddha, Queen Maya, was bathed at Mansarovar by the gods before giving birth to her son. Following the edges of the lake, the kora offers brilliant hues at this high elevation. The journey is enlivened by a series of monasteries along the way.

For centuries, this sacred mountain has witnessed pilgrims and adventurous visitors, although it is still amongst one of the less travelled areas. Due to the remoteness of this region of Western Tibet, travelers hesitate to undertake this route. However, in recent years, there have been more people keen on visiting.

Everest from Tibet

An amalgam of culture, history and nature, Everest from Tibet takes you amidst a wild and uncompromising landscape, through soaring snow-capped mountains, freshwater lakes and glided temples to the very heart of Tibet.

Everest-from-Tibet

Call it The Roof of the World, The Forbidden City or the Third Pole – so magnetic is its fame that a mere mention conjures up images of grandeur and spirituality. It has the earth’s highest ecosystem and is one of its last remaining wildernesses with its lush forests supporting abundant wildlife. Its many mountains feed some of Asia’s most revered rivers and Mt. Kailash is the most sacred mountain in the world. Its people are some of the most resilient in the world and through their richness and deep religious convictions, were built many captivating monuments.
It is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Asia.

Trip Highlights:

• Everest Base Camp with the spectacular view of the North Face of Mount Everest.
• Dalai Lama’s summer and winter retreats, The Potala Palace and Norbulingkha.
• The sacred Yamdrok Lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
• Witness monks in philosophical debates.
• Tread the path of Lhasa’s pilgrimage route to experience the firsthand religious fervor of Tibet.

Itinerary in Detail