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Notes on Indian Archery
by F. R. Lee
From: The Archer's Register for 1903-1904, pp. 261-269.
Part 2 of 4

Within the confines of Burma there are plenty of tribes wild enough, but in common with most of the Mongoloid Indo-Burmese races, they use the cross-bow. The "gulail" or pellet bow, which the Burmans and Karens have in addition for shooting birds, is an importation from India, where it was and still is employed side by side with the long-bow. The Burmans sometimes make their bows of a wood which they call "ponk sain yo thá"; its botanical name is Æginetia Indica. I had some bows made of this wood, which resembles ash or hickory; they are very strong, but, owing perhaps to insufficient seasoning, soon follow the string.

The long-bow is used in Burma only by the Chins, a tribe inhabiting the little-known region west of the Chindwin River. The weapon is usually 3ft. 9in. long, made of bamboo known as "wanwè" (Dinochloa Machellandii), seasoned in the smoke for a year or two. It is about 2½ in. broad where grasped, and tapers gradually to the tips. The string is made of the fibre of a plant called in Burmese "say"—the botanical name I could not ascertain. The arrows are about 18in. long, rather thinner than a lead pencil, and rounded with a knife; perhaps bamboos straight and thin enough are unprocurable. They are winged with the papyruslike leaf sheaths of the wild plantain, or with the sheaths which envelop the joints of the bamboo. The lozenge-shaped, socketed iron points, the Chins will not readily sell. The spiked kind, usually associated with hollow bamboo shafts, are not used by them. The bows of the Chinboks are very stiff and strong, and will send an arrow through a bear. The extreme range is 100 yards, the effective range 40 to 60 yards. The quiver is of bamboo, brightly decorated with feathers, or the scarlet and black berries of a species of thorn (Abra precatoria) found throughout the dry-zone of Upper Burma. In it are carried flint and steel, a spare string or two, betel-nut, and tobacco. As an arm-guard, either a piece of rope is wound round the wrist, or a flat piece of finely woven bamboo wicker work. The "secondary loose" is used. (See page 78, Fig. 65 and 66, Badminton Library—"Archery.")


Under the shadow of Kinchinjunga live the Lepchas and Bhutiyas. The former are the aborigines of Sikkim, bat of late years have been dispossessed of their land by the Bhutiyas from Nepaul. Both these tribes use the long-bow. The weapons which I procured in Sikkim are the most elegant bamboo bows I have ever seen. They are about 5ft. long, gracefully tapering from centre to ends. The latter are carefully cut, so as not to injure the string, which is made of a vegetable fibre very tough and long in the strands. Like the Chins, the Lepchas season their bamboo among the smoke-covered rafters of the hut before making it into a bow. The barbed shaft propelled by these bows will go through a wild pig. I put up an ordinary white correspondence envelope five inches square at thirty-five paces—stepped. The Bhutiya archer who was to shoot for the prize, a rupee, grumbled at the smallness of the mark. He did not hit the envelope, but out of nine shots two were within six inches, and the rest from one to two feet wide of it. He stood with his legs well apart and head bent forward over the bow; he used the "secondary loose," and before shooting eased his muscles by twice or thrice raising the bow above his head. The drawing hand was kept high, and the arrow along the line of sight as if aiming with a rifle. The point of the elbow was kept well up. I presume that the Tibetans use composite bows like those of the Tartars, for I procured several of their drawing-rings made of elephant bones, and one fine specimen bored out of a solid piece of turquoise. Many of these rings are made of coloured glass to imitate jade, but so indifferently that no one who has seen real jade is likely to be deceived. I heard of a rich American who paid forty rupees for a glass drawing-ring not worth fourpence! The Lepchas point their arrows in three ways: Firstly, with a barbed point inserted by a spike into the bamboo; secondly, by a sharp cone of steel similar to the old-fashioned arrow-heads used in English archery; thirdly, by an ingenious detachable point made of bamboo grooved to contain poison. These points are figured in Major Waddle's book, "In the Himalayas," and some specimens have lately been added to the collection of the Toxophilite Society.[1] The barbed steel points are beautiful specimens of iron work. The arrow feathers are usually those of the chil or Indian kik. The methods of fastening them are common, one by employing a kind of black vegetable gum, and the other by an ingenious system of tying. The Lepchas have two kinds of quiver made of a section of bamboo, one long and wide to hold a number of arrows for use on a journey, the other narrower and thinner for the hunting shafts.