Origin & History

Print This Page Print This Page

Da or arrow is literally defined as that which is aimed and directed towards a spot visualized by the mind and seen by the eye. Arrow’s shot after offering prayers toward a target unseen by the eyes are referred to as Yesheypai Da or the Divine Arrow. For example, during the war fought against the British long ago (Duar war fought in 1864-65 between Bhutan and the British.), an arrow was shot from a mountain (Yongla Gonpa, overlooks the Deothang valley in South eastern Bhutan. The arrow was believed to have been shot by Jigme Namgyal, the father of the first king of Bhutan.), towards Dungsam Deothang after supplicating and offering prayers to Yeshey Gonpo, the guardian deity of Bhutan. The arrow is believed to have hit the forehead of the British General and killed him. Such arrows could also be referred to as Yesheypai Da. Hence, Lha are depicted holding bows and arrows. A traditional proverb says, “The Divine Arrow can be seen only when it hits, not when it is shot’. The saying that ‘just as arrow are shot and bows are bent describes young children and attendants who are obedient, complaint and submissive.

The reasons for depicting gods holding bows and arrows have a mythological back ground. The mythical tree Pagsam Joenshing has its roots in the realms of the Lhamin while its trunk grows upward and bear fruits in the realm of the Lha. Jealous at Lha, who enjoy the fruits, the Lhamin waged war against them who are believed to have used bows and arrows as weapons for the first time. Bows and arrows held by gods depicted in their wrathful form are known as the Bow of Knowledge and Arrow of Wisdom. Besides these symbolic associations, bows and arrow are used ordinarily as tools for hunting and as weapons against enemies.

Sithub (Name of Lord Buddha) was the son of a legendary king called Chaseng. It was said that when he shot his arrow, it always hit the enemy; the persons who were killed by his arrow would not go to hell. The legend of Hanuman killing the ten-headed king Lanka with his arrow is also narrated in the text Rigjed Kyi Tamgyu (Ravana was killed by Lord Rama, not by Hanuman). Once Phagpa Chharka (Another name by which Lord Buddha is known), came across young men competing in the five arts of acrobats. He was challenged to demonstrate his skills. He asked for five arrows, and shot four of them simultaneously in four directions in the sky. A raven flying high up momentarily found its way blocked everywhere. Then he shot his fifth arrow and brought down the confused raven. This episode is narrated in the text Kanjur Dulwa.

As a result of prayers said by demons and heretics against the flourishing of the Dharma, four kings of demons by the name Jang Ludud, Hor Gurkar, Jang Sadam and Lho Shingthri were born in the four directions of the universe. They succeeded in destroying the very foundations of the Dharma. In the 10th century, Guru Pema Jungney was born as Ling Geser Gyalpo and eighty Indian sages as his warriors. They subdued the anti-Dharma forces. The main weapons they used were bows and arrows. Ling Gesar’s special arrow was known as Masang Dro Ngama or the five-feathered arrow. After praying that the arrow destroy the anti Dharma forces, he shot it. It is believed that the arrow hit the golden throne of Hor Gurkar Gyalpo with numerous omens. This episode is narrated in the biography of Ling Gesar.

Of the sixty four arts such as acrobats, horse riding discus that were prominent during the time of Lord Buddha, archery was given a high place of honor.