A game in 24 squares

This is a simple, yet exciting game, perfect for a fun time with friends and family.
A game in 24 squares

The fascinating thing about the study of traditional games, is the research. It’s almost like a quest, making you feel like some kind of adventurer seeking boards on floors of temples, talking to people and finding out different aspects of traditional games and then piecing it all together.

The sources for this research on games are so varied. While most of it is through people, it will spring up and surprise you when you least expect it. And it is rare that you will find information about traditional games in a book. If you do find anything in a book, its usually just one part of the puzzle — leaving you to piece together everything else. This particular game was drawn from an old book written in Sanskrit by Harikrishna, son of Venkatram, in the late 19th century.

It is a simple strategy game described by him as a game in 24 squares. Chaturvimshathi Koshtaka means 24 boxes or squares in Sanskrit, and so that is what we use as the name of the game. Although the name is a bit of a tongue twister and sounds exotic, it simply means a ‘Game in 24 Squares’. Not a very creative name perhaps, but I think our ancestors reserved their creativity for coming up with new games rather than naming them.

It is interesting to read the first stanza of the book and appreciate the importance he gives to games. “I hereby describe the organisation structure and rules of this ancient shastra (games), the reason being that no such book is available, and scholars do not study them. In this book, there is a description of several board games. The intention of this shastra being that people will enhance their brain power by playing them.”

He goes on to conclude the book, thus — “I have described in this book many wonderful games and the way to play them. I do not claim this to be exhaustive. There are several games of various types played in the world and it is physically impossible to compile all of them. I have done my best to compile the most important of the time. I Harikrishna, son of Venkatram, was born in Aurangabad, in South Maharashtra.”

With such a fabulous introduction, the book can be nothing but gripping for someone interested in games. And when I chanced on this game, I figured it was something we should research fully. However, Harikrishna was fairly cryptic when it came to explaining the rules of the games.

After much testing we figured out this delightful battlefield game with eight game pieces each. Each player has to try to occupy enemy territory while cutting the other players’ game pieces. The first to do so wins the game. This is a simple, yet exciting game, perfect for a fun time with friends and family.

It may not have the power of nostalgia like many of the games that we have played before, but it has the power of bringing back the past to life and the wonderful games that were played in days gone by.

Just play

Vinita Sidhartha

vinita@kreedagmes.com

The writer is an author and the founder of Kreeda, an organisation reviving traditional games

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