GAMES OF INDIAN ORIGIN – PART 1

CHESS

The game of chess was invented in India and was originally called Ashtapada (sixty-four squares). It’s believed that this game might have originated around 7th-8th century AD. Ashtapada” in Sanskrit denotes a spider -“a legendary being with eight legs” and this game was played with a dice on an 8×8 checkered board. Back then the chess board were not black and white checkers, unlike the one we see now.




Other Indian boards included the 10×10 Dasapada and the 9×9 Saturankam. Later this game came to be known as Chaturanga. The Sanskrit name Chaturanga means ‘quadripartite’ — the four Angas (divided into four parts) which symbolize “the 4 branches of the army”, which has been said in the Amarakosh, an ancient indian dictionary. Like real Indian armies at that time, the pieces were called elephants, chariots, horses and foot soldiers. Unlike modern chess, Chaturanga was mainly a game of chance where results depended on how well you rolled the dice. Played on an authentic cloth  by 2, 3 or 4 players, Chaturanga combines the basic strategy of chess with the dynamic challenge of chance as each move is determined by the random roll of a wooden dice. (Aphilomaths Journal – https://aphilomathsjournal.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/popular-games-sports-that-originated-in-ancient-india/) 


On May 3rd 2017, an exhibition ‘The Art of Kreeda’, as a part of South Asian Heritage month, Mr. Raheel Patel, curator of the exhibition showcased some of the board games that originated in India, and Chess being one of them. Mr.Patel has recreated the entire chess set, and he is of the belief that chess origination can be traced to the Indus Valley civilisation.

(Courtesy – https://www.bramptonguardian.com/community-story/7292877-pama-brings-indus-valley-civilization-board-games-to-peel/)

This picture above is a recreation of the game Chaturanga, where 2,3 or 4 players can play this game with the help of rolling dice.
(Courtesy – https://www.bramptonguardian.com/community-story/7292877-pama-brings-indus-valley-civilization-board-games-to-peel/)

Around 1983-89 Sir.William Jones opines in the 2nd volume of Asiatic Researches, that the game of chess is authentically of Indian origin. This is based on the testimony of Persians, and not from any manuscripts. The famous Persian poet Firdousi, in his famous Shahanama, describes the introduction of Chaturanga from ‘Hind’, as a Sovereign, and the Persians changed it name to ‘Chatrang’, and later with the conquest of Persia by Arabs the name changed to ‘Shatranj’. 

(Aphilomaths Journal – https://aphilomathsjournal.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/popular-games-sports-that-originated-in-ancient-india/) 

The Persian and Arabic version of chess had camels also, which were part of cavalry for them. It’s still highly debated as to the origin of the game of chess. But Majority of the evidence points to the fact that chess originated in India. There are more games that are derivatives from chess, which will be dealt upon in the next blog.

By Dr Srividya K