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.”