‘Teer’ Ka Nishana: A Cocktail of Sport, Greed, Dreams and Money

‘Teer’ Ka Nishana: A Cocktail of Sport, Greed, Dreams and Money

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The traditional sport of archery is played with an arrow – or ‘teer’, as it’s called in Hindi. However, teer takes a different meaning in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.

Teer is a betting game that’s played every day in the capital. And the rules are quite simple.

You have to predict the last two digits of the total number of arrows that hit the target. For example, if 1,050 arrows hit the target, then the winning number is 50, and if 1,075 arrows hit then the winning number is 75, and so forth.

A ‘Teer’ betting counter in Shillong. 
A ‘Teer’ betting counter in Shillong. 
(Photo: The Quint)
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The History of ‘Teer’

Archery has been the traditional sport of the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya for centuries. It is believed that sometime in the early 20th century, people started placing bets on such games. But till the early 1980s, betting on Teer was banned by the state government.

BB Biswas, who has been in this business as a ticket seller for over 50 years, said:

Teer was suddenly banned in the 1970s. All of us took a procession out to the High Court in Shillong but the ban was not revoked. The police started raiding Teer counters and archery games. So, the games were held in Upper Shillong or at the corn fields in Golf Links in Shillong
‘Teer’ counters can be found across Shillong. 
‘Teer’ counters can be found across Shillong. 
(Photo: The Quint)

As the newly-formed state of Meghalaya realised it could be a good source of revenue, in 1982 Teer – or betting on archery – was legalised. It is now controlled under the Meghalaya Amusements and Betting Tax (Amendment) Act 1982.

It’s About Jobs and Survival

Though no official figures are available, it is estimated that there are over 5,000 Teer counters across Meghalaya. Every counter needs a license to operate. It is the owners of these counters and bookies who are the big fish in this business. But the the betting also provides employment to more than 10,000 persons – mostly those who sell the tickets at the archery counter.

‘Teer’ betting employs almost 10000 people. 
‘Teer’ betting employs almost 10000 people. 
(Photo: The Quint)
When I started in 1965, my salary was Rs 5 per day. These days, we get between Rs 350 and Rs 500 per day. There are not enough government jobs in the state. Thousands of families depend on this betting business for their survival.
BB Biswas

The Connection With Dreams

In Meghalaya, it is said that people actually dream about the numbers they want to place their bets on. And there are actual numbers associated with each dream.

For example,

Male – 6

Female – 5

A man and woman fighting – 37

An erotic dream – 17

Every day, from 10 am to 3.30 pm, people buy tickets to place their bets on numbers from 0 to 99. And at 3.30 pm, the action shifts to the archery grounds in Shillong where archers shoot arrows at target.

Archers waiting for the game to begin. 
Archers waiting for the game to begin. 
(Photo: The Quint)

The Archery

The daily archery shooting is conducted by the Khasi Hills Archery Sports Association, which is a group of 12 archery clubs from a particular locality of Shillong. Every day, 50 archers shoot 30 arrows each at 3.30 pm and 20 arrows in the second round at 4.30 pm.

The archers are paid Rs 250 to 300 a day. The traditional target is made of cane and is placed at a distance of 50 yards.

Fifty archers take part in the game daily. 
Fifty archers take part in the game daily. 
(Photo: The Quint)
The arrows being taken out from the target to be counted. 
The arrows being taken out from the target to be counted. 
(Photo: The Quint)

Winner Takes All

Two results are announced every day – for the first round at 3.30 pm and the second round at 4.30 pm. A person can win Rs 80 for every Re 1 gambled on a number in the first round and Rs 60 for every Re 1 spent on the second round. If one is able to predict the number of both the first and second round, then the winning amount is much higher – as high as Rs 4,000 for every Rs 1 gambled.

This is why people are lured to Teer. Greed, dreams, luck and tradition has kept the betting game alive and well in Shillong.

Cameraman: Tridip K Mandal

Video Editor: Kunal Mehra

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