When recurve and compound bows dominate international archery, the presence of traditional bamboo bows in domestic Indian events raises interest about their relevance in the modern age.
For close to 45 years now, the Archery Association of India (AAI) has been promoting the bamboo bows (also known as Indian round competition) by conducting National championships at senior, junior and sub-junior levels. This has helped popularise archery among common people and also earned them jobs in various institutions, such as Services, Railways, Central Reserve Police Force, Assam Rifles and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).Biggest contribution
Interestingly, the biggest contribution of bamboo bows has been in taking archery to the masses.
“Most of the aspiring archers in our country come from humble background and start with bamboo bows as these are much cheaper than the professional recurve or compound bows.Costlier bows
“One gets a bamboo bow for about Rs. 1000. A recurve bow is at least 10 times costlier than that and a basic compound bow starts at Rs. 30,000,” says Rupesh Kar, a judge and a joint secretary with the AAI.
“The bamboo arrows cost only Rs. 30-35 per piece, while a recurve or compound arrow starts at Rs. 300.”
Earlier, the bows were manufactured mostly in North East but now these are being made in several States including Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata.
Kar points out that bamboo bows are still popular in South Asian countries, such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
“We used to have a South Asian championship of bamboo bows, but it’s been a while since it was last held. The Europeans also use bamboo bows but they use laminated parts, which make the bow very close to the recurve bows. Here, we do not want our bows to shed their traditional form,” says Kar.
Virendra Sachdeva, the AAI treasurer and the Delhi Archery Association president, says he has never seen any dip in the interest among bamboo bow archers.
“This time, we have 317 archers and officials participating in these Nationals here.”
“Several other Asian countries also have the tradition of bamboo bows, but most of them are in laminated form. We would love to have a continental competition of these bows, but the main challenge is standardising the equipment,” added Sachdeva.
They may remain unsung but the bamboo bow archers have a reason to pursue their passion.
‘Shoot’ and land a job is their motivation. Sticking to tradition is certainly paying in their case.