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Of flying darts, cheers & jeers


In Bhutan, there are two sports that are loved by the masses. The first is obviously archery while in close second is Khuru – a game that is somewhat like darts except it’s a Bhutanese version.

Not only does the size of a khuru dart differ, it is also carved out of hard-wood with no restriction on the weight or the size of it. To strengthen it, the darts come with metal-casings at the lower end. A khuru can weigh anything from 150 to 300gms.

And unlike a regular game of darts, the distance between the targets in a game of khuru is about 30 meters and the target is almost 11 inches by 5 inches.

What makes it special amongst the Bhutanese is the spirit in which the game is played. Teams sing and dance, cheer and jeer, mock and cajole with each strike as the darts swirl towards the target.

There is no age limit just as long as one can throw it straight and hit the target. Perhaps that is why Khuru is so popular­, because of the sheer simplicity of the game.

“Un­like ar­chery, it is cheaper to play kh­uru,” says Jurmi who is a regular at khuru matches when he isn’t at work. “I get togeth­er with friends on week­ends and na­tional hol­i­days to play khuru.”

Open fields in Jung­shina, Taba and other places in Thim­phu can be seen filled with khuru en­thu­si­asts, espe­cially on losar (Bhutanese New Year) and other na­tional holidays. And the scenario on a holiday is the same throughout the country.

A pair of khuru costs anywhere be­tween Nu 200 to Nu 300 de­pending on the ma­te­r­ial used to make them. Lately, Khuru has also been in­cluded in in­ter-school sports tour­na­ments to pro­mote the tra­di­tional game among the youth.

Usually the bigger matches see as many as 10 players on each side, but then again a five-member team will suffice too. There are no restrictions on the numbers of players required. And while the rules of khuru are sim­i­lar to that of archery, it is the range of the target where the difference lies. A khuru range is only about 20 meters long as opposed to the range of archery played in Bhutan.

The tar­get is a small wood­en block around which play­ers gather to boost the confidence of their team-mates to hit it. They do so by shout­ing, singing and danc­ing. And because alcohol is permitted during the game, at times, tempers do flare.

However, the actual fun starts when a player hits the tar­get. All mem­bers of the team break into a song and a synchronized dance often teasing, belittling and poking fun at the opponent.

“Watch­ing the younger gen­er­a­tion play khuru re­minds me of my good ol’ days when we’d play khuru in the paddy fields as the cattle grazed,” says a nostalgic Dorji, who just recently turned 75. “Khuru was the most popular sport back in my day and I feel happy that it still is. I love the darts flying through the air towards its target and the look on the faces of the opponents when it hits it.”