Playing with the past

Traditional games, like Hulimane, thrive during lockdown and after in Gadag district
Channa Mane or Aliguli Mane—a board with hollows and played with tamarind  seeds
Channa Mane or Aliguli Mane—a board with hollows and played with tamarind  seeds

GADAG: In Ron, a town in Gadag district, the Nayak family gets busy to play a few rounds of Pagade, a traditional Indian board game. The dice, cloth board and wooden pieces are kept safe inside a suitcase in a cupboard, while some components are also found in old bags. All these are coming out for play. When the lockdown was extended, not having much to do, the youngsters of the Nayak household discovered this indigenous game to pass the time. Hence, they along with their elders have taken upon themselves to continue playing this time-honoured pastime even after lockdown as schools continue to be shut.

The lockdown, which compelled people to stay indoors, came as a blessing in disguise for the resurrection of sorts of traditional Indian board games, which have almost completely been lost to the current generation. Trying out different things to stay occupied, many now as in the Nayak home, are looking to revive the thrill of playing these games, while also passing on the ethos to their children.

At the Nayaks’, children have set up the board and are asking their elders to explain the game rules. Pagade or Pachisi is chronicled to originate in the early medieval period, while it is also seen ‘playing’ a pivotal role in the epic Mahabharata. Like most other traditional board games, not many today know how it is played.

“The Pagade set, along with its cloth board, is 170 years old and was also played on by our forefathers. It is a game which lasts at least a few hours,” senior citizens Kasturibai Nayak and Rajendraprasad inform.A lot of families in North Karnataka continue to playing traditional games though the lockdown is now lifted. In the rural hinterland of the region, a popular game Hulimane is being played more often nowadays. This game only requires broken pieces of tamarind seeds and a square pattern drawn on the floor, and is ideal for those advised to stay indoors.

Earlier, such games would be played on occasions like Deepavali in the villages, but that custom was also on the wane until recently. However, with the lockdown, these games are being revived not just among rural, but also urban folk. Gadag town sees another game Channa Mane emerging popular among its people, who have also noticed the joy of playing Hulimane, Chouka Bara, Anekallu Aata and the familiar Havu Eni Aata. The elders are also teaching the children to play these games, which the latter are enjoying.

Gururaj Malagitti (8) from Ishwar extension in Gadag town says, “I love playing Channa Mane now. I used to play Angry Birds and Candy Crush on mobile earlier. Now, after learning this ancient game, I am forcing my grandmother to play it with me again and again. We are playing these indoor games even after the lockdown is lifted as still schools are still shut.” In a consolation of sorts, some of these nostalgic pastimes have also found their way via mobile apps, albeit in new avatars. Yogeshan Kundagol, an octogenarian from Gadag, reminisces, “I have seen Pagade to chess on mobiles.

But the happiness we derived by playing them the authentic way cannot be got while playing on the mobile.” Siddu Kuduri, a farmer, says, “I have played and enjoyed all types of indoor games, but my children are fascinated with games on the mobile. Teachers and seniors should impart knowledge about our games to children, as mobiles will do more harm to their young minds and eyes too.” Indeed, the lockdown seems to have reversed the trend for the better. In the words of Kasturibai Nayak and Rajendraprasad: “Now after the lockdown, we have got the idea of educating our children about traditional games so that their legacy continues to survive amongst every successive generation.”

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The New Indian Express