The Shillong archery lottery

The incredible sight of the Shillong Teer lottery result being decided by way of archery is one of the most intriguing and yet little known spectacles in India. I went there on my trip to the Khasi Hills region to see the living root bridges. As a town, there is not much of interest for the foreign tourist. Indian visitors come here in ever increasing numbers, seeking out shopping, cool air and to ‘discover’ an area that is still fairly detached from the rest of India, but otherwise, it doesn’t have too much of interest.

However, there is one curious, and rather intriguing spectacle that occurs here, and I went to find out about it.

Archers at the Shillong Lottery, India
The archers get ready for 2nd shoot of the day

Many players say their numbers come to them in dreams

All over Shillong there are thousands of little stalls, selling lottery tickets. These ticket sellers are licensed and it seems that most people have a flutter. The principal is simple; you select a number between 1 – 100 and decide how much you want to put down, usually between five and 50 rupees. If you get the winning number, you win 60 X your stake. So you have a one in a hundred chance to win 60 rupees for each one rupee you put down.

Ticket counter at the Shillong Archery, India
One of the many ticket counters where you can place your bet

The Shillong Teer draw is held daily

Each day, first at 4pm and then again at 4.30pm, groups of archers meet at the Shillong Archery shooting ground for what must be the most unique lottery draw anywhere in the world. I spoke to many people and got a variety of accounts as to what exactly happens (as is the norm in India), but it seems that there are number of different clubs that take turns to come and shoot. At each session, 20 archers from three different clubs line up to shoot their arrows at a target. So there are 60 archers in total.

Once the word is given, they all fire in rapid succession in to the target.

An archer at the Shilong Archery, India
An archer lines up, ready to fire in to the target

The shooting is over quickly and finishes when a group of men lift a large hessian type cover in front of the target so that no more arrows can land in it.

Officials count the arrows at the archery lottery, India
This is how the target looks after they have finished shooting. The gentleman on the right was officiating proceedings

The event is public and anyone can attend

It seemed that each club had different coloured flights on their arrows. Once the shooting was over, the crowd rushed up to inspect the result. Some think they can guess the outcome accurately and dash back to place last minute bets. A couple of elders, or officials, stood over the target while preparations were made for the next stage.

The count at the Shilong Archery Lottery, India
Now the business end of the event. The arrows are counted

All arrows were removed from the target and were counted in to groups of ten. The chap in the middle is counting and bunching them up. Then each group of ten was handed to another official (seen on the left of the picture) who mounted each group of arrows in to a kind of rack.

An official at the Shillong Archery, India
The final act. The last arrows are thrown back in to the arena

The final result numbers are calculated

Finally, the counting official throws the last of the arrows, ceremoniously, back in to the centre of the field. Once the finally tally is made, the hundreds are ignored and the final winning number for the lottery is arrived at. So, for example, if a total of 318 arrows are counted. The winning number is 18.

It was a fascinating event. Although it was taken seriously everyone there was good natured and incredibly friendly. Most of them don’t ever remember seeing a foreign tourist. If you are in Shillong it’s well worth going down and joining in the fun. However, it is tricky to find, as most locals only seem to have a vague idea where it is. Confusingly, it’s often referred to as the Polo ground, but Polo is the name of the area and it doesn’t seem to refer to a ground where they play Polo!

From Police Bazar or Bara Bazar, a taxi will cost 100 IRS. The entrance is down a little side alley off the main street. If you get to the general area and can’t see it just keep asking, eventually someone will point you the right way. Persevere, it’s worth it.

No, I didn’t win but if willpower could have made any difference I probably would have, everyone was genuinely hoping I was going to pick the winning number! They all wanted me to have a good momento of the event but it wasn’t necessary.

Sign over the entrance to the Shillong Archery, India
Sign over the entrance to the lottery archery ground

9 thoughts on “The Shillong archery lottery”

  1. I am sad that such a detailed blog on this interesting event, happening daily and generally given a miss by most visitors has no worthwhile comments. I have seen this event and enjoyed it. I must compliment you for this well written blog of this unique event.

    Reply
  2. There is nothing like "Teer Counter".
    "Teer Counter" is fake and Fraud.
    You came to Shillong and seen at 4 Furlong, Polo.
    You have seen the main place of Teer Game. The counters are called "Archery Counter".
    And teercounter fake website, doesn’t have any relation with KHASI HILLS ARCHERY SPORTS INSTITUTE.
    The real website is http://www.meghalayateer.com

    Reply
  3. Hi I’m heading to Shillong this week to see the bridges and I just saw this. I have a question though is it appropriate for women to see this event, the photos in this blog only have men in them.

    Reply
    • Hi Julia, thanks for the message. You’re right, I don’t remember seeing any women there. I suggest asking a local to go along with you and they ask for you before you go in. Let me know how you get on, it’s a fantastic spectacle. All the best. Mike

      Reply

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