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Home > Articles > The Archer's Register > 1904 > Notes on Indian Archery - Part 3
Notes on Indian Archery
by F. R. Lee
From: The Archer's Register for 1903-1904, pp. 261-269.
Part 3 of 4

The Bhils in small detached groups inhabit a wide stretch of country embracing parts of Rajputana, Bundelkhand, Malwa, and Khandesh. They are fine trackers and hunters, and skilful with the bow. Their name for the latter is "kampti"; it is made of bamboo, and is about 5ft. long, the string is of bamboo bark called "challa." The hunting and war arrows are nearly a yard long, with long broad points made of scrap steel. They use the European arrow loose, but according to their tradition their ancestors used the Mongolian thumb loose. The reason for the change is embodied in the following story: "A certain Rajah finding the Bhils hunting in his forests commanded their thumbs to be cut off, so that they could no longer use their bows and arrows. They soon, however, learned to do without their thumbs."

Some arrows I procured from aborigines in the Cuddapah district of Madras may now be seen in the collection of the Toxophilite Society; they are very rough implements, almost identical in make with those of the Veddas of Ceylon. The heads, including the socket, are made of iron smelted locally, and are generally about 4in. long. Colonel Walrond thinks he sees signs of the helical arrangement of the feathers, but I am inclined to believe that this appearance is rather due to accidental twisting.

The Santals inhabit the Rajmahal Hills, in Northern Bengal; they are probably of Dravidian origin, but those interested may refer for further information to Risley's "Tribes and Castes of Bengal." Sir W. Hunter, in his "Annals of Sural Bengal," says: "The Santal never stirs without his bow and arrows. The bow consists of a strong mountain bamboo which no Hindu lowlander can bend. His arrows are of two kinds, heavy sharp ones for the larger game, and light ones with a broad knob at the point for small birds." The bow is a very roughly made implement compared with that of the Lepchas, the string being of bamboo bark, about 4ft. 9in. long. The arrows are about 2ft. 6in. long, having barbed heads, which are fine specimens of the blacksmith's art, and remind one of the arrowheads of the tribes of Central Africa. The kite feathers are attached by a fastening similar to that of the Lepchas. In passing, I may say that during the rainy season in India feathers only glued on came off at once; I systematically tie on the feathers of my arrows with waxed silk, and afterwards thickly paint the spaces between with crimson Aspinal's enamel, taking care to paint well up to the bases of the feathers. This idea occurred to me after examining specimens of the arrows made in Rajputana, and the drain on my pocket from arrows spoiled by the wet forced me to adopt it. To return to the Santals, the knobbed arrows "tuti" are used for knocking down birds, small game, and fruit from high trees, the knobs being made of bamboo. The iron-pointed arrows are called "apari." It will be noticed that one wall of the nock of the Santali arrow is out away. They use the European form of the two-or-three fingered loose. Their marksmanship at a fixed target set up at 60 yards is not skilful, but they often show remarkable skill in "snap-shotting," knocking over a hare, or bringing down a bird on the wing. I have been impressed with the force with which they send their arrows. Boys can embed their arrows so firmly in a wooden target that it is difficult to extract them, and they can easily transfix a target fin. thick. Perhaps a better test of force was the test set to hit a tobacco canister on the top of a wall; although it offered little resistance to the impact, the arrowhead passed diametrically through both sides of the tin.

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