New Delhi’s Red Fort has always been a popular destination for tourists to the capital. However, visitors to the monument on Sunday were greeted by an unusual sight. For the first time in over 350 years of its existence a major archery event — the National Ranking Tournament — was being being held on the lawns that ring the fort. Scores stood by the side of the Lal Qila road, watching archers going through their pre-match training routines. Some wanted the adjacent gate to be opened so that they could walk right to the shooting gallery but were instead told of a longer route to the venue. That suggestion discouraged many and only a few eventually sat on the stands.
One of those who did was Choudhury Gulshad, who travelled to New Delhi with his brother Meherban, chanced upon the event while on a sightseeing trip to the great symbol of the Mughal rule. “I’d never seen how archers shoot, this is the first time,” Gulshad, who hails from Shamli, Uttar Pradesh said.
While many failed to come in, it is the newcomers like Gulshad, whose attention the Archery Association of India (AAI) is hoping to catch to make the sport a mainstream one. “Those wanting to see the Red Fort also got the chance to see archers in action. Even a few foreigners, watched the proceedings today,” said AAI secretary general Anil Kamineni.
It also means that the AAI has finally managed to toe the philosophy of the World Archery Federation, who have been hosting major events with historic and heritage sites as the back drop to its events. The World Cup Finals was held in Paris 2013 with the iconic Eiffel Tower in the backdrop. London Olympics event was held at the Lord’s cricket ground. Similarly, the 2016 Olympics Final in Rio is to take place in the the Sambadrome, famous for the Carnival.
Archers were more than thrilled to shoot for the first time at the venue. “I have never been to Red Fort. Today was the first time I came here. It was an honour to have got the chance to shoot here,” said Rajat Chauhan, who won the gold in the men’s compound category after beating Abhishek Verma in a shoot-off. Gold-medal winner in recurve men’s, Tarundeep Rai hoped that the next National Ranking Tournament’s Archery final be held at the India Gate Lawns.
Sunday’s event was only a test event. The big show, the Asia Cup Archery Tournament that is scheduled to take place in January, is also likely to be held in front of the Red Fort. “We have been trying to get the nod for Red Fort for a while. It took us good two months to convince the ASI, but it is worth it,” said AAI treasurer Virender Sachdev. “Today’s was a dry run for the Asia Cup. It will be bigger and grander.”
Results: Compound women: 1. Trisha Deb, 2. Purvasha Sudhir Shende, 3. V. Jyothi Surekha; Compound men: 1. Rajat Chauhan, 2. Abhishek Verma, 3. Y. Charan Reddy; Recurve women: 1. Deeepika Kumari, 2. Laxmi Rani Majhi, 3. Madhu Vedwan; Recurve men: Tarundeep Rai, 2. Kapil, 3. Atanu Das