Traditional Indian Chess



Chess is an internationally famous mind game and it is believed to have originated from the Indian soil. There are many interesting legends pertaining to its origin. One of the legend states that the wife of King Ravana (a character from the Indian epic of Ramayana) invented the game 4000-5000 years ago. There is also a reference in the Bhavishya Purana about the game.

The game might have originated from the ancient game of Chaturanga in India. Chaturanga, a Sanskrit word, refers to the four branches of the army. Chaturanga was played on a board of 64 squares consisting of four opposing players. History of Chess It is the view of some historians that this game was also used in the allocation of land among different members of a clan when a new settlement was being established. H. J. R. Murry, in his work titled A History of Chess, has concluded that chess is a descendant of an Indian game played in the 7th century AD.

The Encyclopedia Britannica states that we find the best authorities agreeing that chess existed in India before it was known to have been played anywhere else. According to the encyclopedia, Sir. William Jones, in an essay published in the 2nd Vol. of Asiatic Researches (about 1783-89), argued that Hindustan was the cradle of chess, the game having been known there from time immemorial by the name Chaturanga, that is, the four angas, or

members of an army, which are said in the Amarakosha (an ancient Indian Dictionary - S.B.) to be elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers.

Chess SetThe first reference to Shatranj was found in the Persian work of 600 A.D. The story mentions that a prince having lost all his possessions staked his wife Dilaram as a last resort to regain his fortune. Dilaram who was observing the moves from behind the purdah did not want her husband to loose out in any way. She cried to her husband to forward the elephant and the pawn and with the horse give checkmate. Needless to say, the prince won the game.

The famous Persian poet Firdausi also mentions chess. He records an incident where gifts from an Indian king were sent to the court of a Persian ruler. One of the gifts was a game depicting the battle between two armies. In the Sassanid dynasty a book 'Chatrang namakwor' or a 'A Manual of Chess' was written in the Persian Pahlavi language. In Persia the word Shatranj is used for Chess.

Around 8th century the game was carried to Spain and from there it spread to the rest of the Greco-Roman world. The countries enthusiastically lapped up the game. However variations occurred in the names of the chess pieces. The elephants became archers in Spain, Standard-Bearers in Italy, couriers in Germany, court jesters in France, and BSs in Portugal, England, Ireland and Iceland. The Persian word for chess is Chatrang, which was later changed by the Arabs to Shatranj.

As said in Encyclopedia Britannica, this word is obviously a corruption of the Sanskrit original Chaturanga. The old English word for chess which is Esches, possibly stems from this eight-squared aspect of the game as did the Sanskrit word Astapada.

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