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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2016-05-03
 Author: Fergus  Duniho. Chaturanga. The first known variant of chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-08-27 UTC
Hey, i've noticed something about this mahabharata verse, and i don't think we have been looking at it in the right context. I'll tell you why. First of all, to understand exactly what Yudhishthira is saying in this verse, you have to know what is going on in his life at this time. He and his brothers have just spent 12 years in exile and have one more year to go, but if they are detected in this final year, they must spend another 13 years in exile. So they plan to spend the final year in disguise, living in the city of Virata. So now, each brother speaks, telling the others .... 1. how they are going to disguise themselves 2. how they will spend their time in this disguise and go undetected till the year ends. With this in mind, let's look at what Yudhishthira says. Sentences 1 and 2 ... (1). Yudhishthira replied, 'Ye sons of the Kuru race, ye bulls among men, hear what I shall do on appearing before king Virata. (2). Presenting myself as a Brahmana, Kanka by name, skilled in dice and fond of play, I shall become a courtier of that high-souled king. ok, this is clear, Yudhishthira tells his brothers how he plans to disguise himself as a pro-gamer, so to speak. Now sentences 3 and 4. (3). And moving upon boards beautiful pieces made of ivory, of blue and yellow and red and white hue, by throws of black and red dice. (4). I shall entertain the king with his courtiers and friends. Now the 3rd sentence here is the one we are always told Yudhisthira describes a game, however, this is not true, Yudhisthira is actually describing HIMSELF PLAYING A GAME. He is telling his brothers how he will be passing his days in the king's court playing games. It is one thing to describe a game, but it is another thing to describe yourself playing a game, they are two different things. And look at the 4th sentence, it follows on from the 3rd, it shows the outcome of his playing games, he shall entertain the king. In the 5th and 6th sentences, Yudhisthira then says how he will be undetected. (5) And while I shall continue to thus delight the king, nobody will succeed in discovering me. (6) And should the monarch ask me, I shall say, 'Formerly I was the bosom friend of Yudhishthira.' And look at the last sentence .... (7) I tell you that it is thus that I shall pass my days (in the city of Virata). He finishes telling them 'it is thus that i shall pass my days ..'. When you understand he is describing himself playing a game, rather than the game itself, it isn't such a big deal he has used the word 'board' instead of a more specific term. How many of us today use the word 'board' instead of 'chessboard', and as far as not describing the piece movements, what is the point? If we ask these questions, 'why not board specific word' and 'why not describe piece movements', i think we are clearly not understanding what Yudhisthira is telling his brothers. If you read the Mahabharata after Yudhisthira finishes, all his other brothers speak, telling how they will disguise themselves and how they pass their days in this disguise. Also, looking at the 3rd sentence of Yudhisthira, note his words 'And moving upon boards' and 'by throws of black and red dice'. He is painting a picture of himself playing the game. You will note in this sentence, he describes what the pieces are made of, the colors of the pieces, even the color of the dice, all the visuals. Also i think it is interesting he says 'beautiful pieces', though you can conclude nothing from it. It is more easily imaginable this describes chess-like pieces rather than Pachisi pieces, though as i said, this proves nothing. Oh, one more thing, i think there is also no doubt Yudhisthira's brothers knew very well the game he was talking about playing. So i think i have to go back to what i originally thought, this game could be a pachisi type game or it could be chaturaji.