GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (65)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

Estêvão Cacela traces us a portrait of the Bhutanese,  presenting them as white people, “although the little cleanliness with which they are treated makes them not look so much.” Their hair is long, covering the ears and part of the forehead, and their faces are unshaven. And to be sure that this was the case, they often used a pair of tongs that hung on their chests, “which served to remove everything that sticks out.” 

The costume of the Bhutanese did not differ from that used by other Tibetan peoples “with uncovered arms and from the neck to the knees covered with a cloth made of wool, bringing another large cloth per cover.” They also wore leather belts “with very good plates,” bracelets on their arms and “reliquaries that are slung over their shoulder.” The Jesuit priest tells us that the Bhutanese used to walk barefoot, although there were those who wore leather boots, or socks made of thick cloth, and as weapons they used bow and arrow and excellent iron daggers, which they adorn with great art work.” Even today archery is the most popular sport activity among Bhutanese and has been cataloged as a “national sport” since 1971, when Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Archery tournaments are held throughout the year, especially during religious holidays and local festivities, hence all villages have adequate space to practice the activity. It is believed that it increases concentration and contributes to psychic development, and is still considered an ideal form of socialization because it encourages a good relationship between people. I had the opportunity, during our short stay, to witness a friendly competition between friends. It was already late afternoon. I was struck by the predetermined distance between the archers and the target – maybe 150 meters – and the small size of this brilliant, true color palette. Competitors of various ages seemed to be quite sure of themselves, clearly animated by the drink, since alcohol consumption is well accepted at such times. Bows and arrows – these, topped with bird feathers – celebrate bamboo, and quivers are made of wood, with a leather covering and a cloth strap. The first member of a team (usually thirteen players) to score twenty-five points is declared the winner, although the feat may take forever. Once upon a time there were games that extended over a month!


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