Archery, probably one of the oldest sports in the history of human civilization, has always been associated with warrior clans and courage. All the great battles fought in ancient and medieval history had valiant military leaders who were excellent archers. Despite the use of bow and arrow by human society for ages, the archery as a sports got very late recognition in the Olympics. It was introduced in Munich Olympics in 1972 which led to official recognition of the game in India with the formation of Archery Association of India (AAI) in 1973.
Archery in Manipur is as old as the Manipuri culture itself. The bamboo bow and arrow has been in action since time immemorial, be it for battles, hunting or recreational sports. Hence, no wonder that as soon as the Archery as a sports was introduced at National arena, the state associated itself with it and became one of the talent warehouse of the sports producing elite archers like Laishram Bombayla Devi who has represented India in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics and several other international and national level archers.
With the pace of time, archery became a competitive sport and the traditional bamboo bow and arrow were replaced by scientific and technologically advanced bows and arrows resulting in spur in cost of pursuing the sports. ASSAM RIFLES, understanding the love of Manipuris for sports in general and archery in particular, decide to extend a helping hand to revive the sports in Manipur. Under the vision and patronage of Director General of Assam Rifles, Assam Rifles Archery team (ARAT) was established in Mar 2005. It became a member of Manipur Archery Association in Mar 2005. The sole aim of establishment of the team was to give required impetus to archery in Manipur by identifying, recruiting and training young guns in the sports. Starting with just Rs 4 lakh and few amateur archers in 2005, ARAT has come a long way since then under the patronage of Headquarters Inspector General Assam Rifles (South).
Headquarters 9 Sector Assam Rifles at Keithelmanbi is the nodal agency for training and grooming of the archers. ARAT at present is training 20 archers at Keithelmanbi at its archery range which is planned to be constructed into a full fledged archery range with modern and latest training aids. The talent is identified through local competitions and screening and suitable persons with aptitude are selected. The food and stay is catered for keeping in mind the comfort and dietary requirements of the sport so that the archers can train well both physically and mentally in competitive environment. Rigourous physical training, yoga, concentration exercises and archery exercises form the basis of training of the enthusiastic archers of ARAT.
Archery as a sport is played in three formats in India with a circular target about 48 inches in diameter. Indian round demands use of traditional Indian bow and arrow made of bamboo and is required to hit the target at 30/50m distance. This is practiced only in India, hence the name. In Compound division, target is required to be hit from 50m while in Recurve division it is to be hit from 30/50/70/90m. Both Compound and Recurve division matches use the latest technological features in bows, arrows and supporting equipment. All the three formats are played in individual and team category. ARAT is training its members in all three formats of archery, for both individual and team matches.
Archery requires years of training practice and match experience before tasting success. But ARAT has accomplished stupendous success in such a short span since its establishment by winning over a 100 medals at National and State level archery competitions. ARAT members participated in 2010 & 2011 at Junior National Level and did everyone proud by winning 04 Silver and 02 Bronze medals. But the biggest achievement in the sports by ARAT member came in 2011 when Rifleman N Subhachandra Meitei bagged a bronze medal in individual and team event in the National Games-2011, Ranchi, Jharkhand. ARAT also won 22 nd state level championship held in Manipur in Oct 11. ARAT also secured second position out of 27 state teams in Indian Round at 34th Junior National Archery Championship in December 2011 held at Shillong, Meghalaya.
ARAT again stamped its dominance in Archery by winning consecutively 23 rd State Level Championship in October 12. Again in 35th Junior National Archery Championship, held in February 2013 at Hyderabad, ARAT won one gold and two Bronze Medals and the Indian Round Team Championship. ARAT again proved its mettle by securing second position in 1st All India Police Archery Championship held at Ranchi in February 2013 in a field of 19 participating teams which are in existence for the past few decades.
The credit for such outstanding accomplishment by ARAT goes to the spirit of Manipur people who under able guidance, motivation, adequate training and infrastructural assistance from Assam Rifles have been able to establish themselves in the national arena of this skillful sports. Having seen the multifold growth of ARAT, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, AVSM, SM, Director General of Assam Rifles provided all monetary help to procure the latest state of art and imported equipment to compete at the National and International Level. Through regular interaction with team, prompt award to outstanding archers and increased flow of monetary aid to team, Major General U K Gurung, AVSM, YSM, Inspector General Assam Rifles (South) has ensured that the ARAT is ready for upcoming National Games -2013 and other National level championships. Proposal to induct fresh talent to Assam Rifles on sports quota is also underway and will be finalized soon. Assam Rifles have not only provided coaching and guidance to the members of ARAT but also has organized several local level archery competitions and provided assistance to development of archery in Manipur through this traditional sport.
ARAT has achieved such heights in relatively small span of time of which Manipur and Assam Rifles should both be proud of. ARAT is a symbol of passion and spirit of Manipuri people and their association and harmony with the Assam Rifles. On the occasion of the Raising Day of Headquarters Inspector General Assam Rifles (South) on 15 March 2013, ARAT re-dedicates itself to brining further glory to Assam Rifles. With the emphasis on training, exploration and recruitment of new talent and dedicated efforts by Assam Rifles, ARAT will soon be a name heard and applauded at international level. The day may not be far away when one of its member finishes on Podium of Olympics brining glory to the ARAT, Assam Rifles, State of Manipur and India.