Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ramsons Game Boards

These are the products designed and developed by Ramsons Kala Pratishtana. These are available at 'Handicrafts Sales Emporium' which is well known as 'Ramsons' in front of Zoo, Mysore.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

April 2009 Article - Taranga

Well known weekly magazine of Kannada, 'Taranga', carried an article about Kreedaa Kaushalya exhibition in its April 2009 issue. Pages shown above are from the magazine featuring the article.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Board Game Competitions

Mysore based cultural organisation 'Chintana Balaga' had organised an one day competition in Chaukabara, Pagade and Aligulimane for the citizens of Mysore on last Sunday, 7 June 2009 at Sri Vidya Shankara Kalyana Mantapa in front of Gun House, Mysore.

Men, women and children of all age group delightfully took part playing 7 house chaukabara, and other two games.

It was the quintessential Mysore brahmin crowd at the venue. Kids, though small in number, were equally well versed in the games and gave a tough competition to elders.

Each game of 7 house chaukabara was played by four players with each player racing his/her 6 coins against opponents' coins with the aid of 6 cowrie shells.

Games proved engrossing not only for the participants but also for the onlookers.

Young and old alike took part enthusiastically in the day-long event.

This is the final game of chaukabara in which the participant in orange, green, blue and white dress won the top four prizes respectively.

The above is the final game of pagade. The participant in green saree was the winner while the gentleman in white and the lady in pink dress were the first and second runners-up respectively.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How to Play Navakankari

Well, this post was not very helpful, hence I have created a new post here which gives detailed instructions of how to play Navakankari.

How to Play Pagade

Pagade is the national board game of India. This race game is known by numerous names in different part of the vast country. It is called as Pagade (Kannada), Chaupar (Hindi), Chausar (Hindi), Chopat (Hindi), Pachisi (Hindi), Parcheesi (English - USA), Sokkattan (Tamil), Dayakattam (Tamil), Pagdi Pat (Marathi).
Contents: One game board; 4 sets of pawns (each set contains 4) which are coloured Red, Black, Yellow and Green; two Stick Dice.

The game board has four arms joined at the sides of a central big square which is ‘Home’. Each arm is made up of three rows of eight squares. We shall call the home-arms of Red, Black, Yellow and Green pawns as Red-Arm, Black-Arm, Yellow-Arm and Green-Arm, respectively. Red pawns go around the board starting from and ending at Red-Arm. Similarly other pawns start their journeys on respective ‘home-arms’. Given below (as white arrow line) in Fig.2 is the path of Red pawns.

Pagade is a race game in which two or four players can play. Given here is the rule for four-player game.

The Fig.3 shows the game board from the Red’s point-of-view. Some squares are sequentially numbered from 1 to 75 while others have been blackened. The numbering originates from the home-arm of Red. Squares 1 to 7 are collectively called Red’s Belly. Belly is the private domain of one set of pawns wherein pawns of other sets cannot venture. Blackened squares in the Fig.3 depict Belly of other pawn-sets and hence Red pawns cannot move into those squares. The Red pawns start from its Belly, move from 1 to 75 sequentially and then to 8 and go down the belly to 1 and finally plunging into ‘Home’ as given below.


Similarly other pawns move around the board and come back to their respective home-arm and go down their Belly and into Home. The movement (anti-clockwise direction) is shown as an arrow in Fig.2.

Initially pawns are kept on the board as shown in Fig. 1, i.e., one pawn each are kept on squares 6 & 7 while a pawn-pair is at 12th square.
An element of chance is provided by 2 stick dice. Each stick dice has 1,4,6 and 3 dots on its widest faces. Both dice are rubbed together and rolled onto the floor. The dots on the top-face of both dice depicts how many squares pawn/s can move.

During the roll of dice, say the top of one dice has 3 dots and another has 6 dots. Pawn/s can be moved in two ways.
Case-1: One pawn can be moved 3 squares and another, 6 squares (always sequentially forward)
Case -2: Both numbers are added and only one pawn is moved i.e., in this case, one pawn is moved 9 squares (3+6).

When both dice have same number of dots on the top side, it is called a doublet. A doublet (1,1 or 3,3 or 4,4 or 6,6) can be used either to move two individual pawns or a single pawn or a pawn-pair can be moved together. There is no bonus extra turn for rolling a doublet.

A pawn is cut when an opponent pawn lands in the same square. A cut pawn is removed from the board for the time being. No matter where a pawn was cut, it has to start the race all over again beginning at 1 in its Belly during its immediate next turn. For example, a player’s one pawn is cut and during his next turn, he has to place the cut pawn starting from his Belly as per either or both numbers got from dice.

If two pawns are cut, both have to be placed starting from the Belly, corresponding to the number got from each dice (one pawn for each dice). Until and unless all cut pawns are reintroduced on board, a player cannot move other pawns.

Pawn-Pair: If two pawns of same colour come together on a square, they form a “pawn-pair.” By default all players have a pawn-pair at the beginning of the game. Player can choose to break and separate a pawn-pair at any given time just by moving one or both pawns (to different squares). Any pawn or a pawn-pair can jump over another pawn-pair.

A roll of doublet of dice is required to move a pawn-pair together. Only a pawn-pair can cut another pawn-pair (with the roll of a doublet). A single pawn cannot cut a pawn-pair. Same coloured two pawns on separate squares cannot land together on the square occupied by another pawn-pair. Such cutting is also not allowed.

For example, a Green-pair is on 70 and there are two Red pawns, one on 66 and another on 67. Now if Red rolls 3 & 4 on dice, it might seem that they both are forming a pawn-pair at 70 and hence can cut the Green-pair present there, but they can’t, since a pawn-pair can be cut only by an already formed pawn-pair.

Except the squares in the Belly (1 to 7) no where else can there be more than two pawns on a single square.

For a pawn to enter its Belly on its way to Home, the player should have cut at least one opponent pawn. A pawn that has entered its Belly on the way to Home has to be distinguished from other pawns that are still starting the race. Hence such a Home-ward pawn is turned on its side in the Belly, thus moves deep into the Belly and finally enters Home. Exact number of dot/s on either dice (or both) is required to enter ‘Home’.

There are no safe squares in this game. A pawn is safe only in its Belly i.e., from squares 1 to 7.
There are no bonus turns in this game, not even when a player cuts his opponent’s pawn, not also during a roll of a doublet.

Winner: The first player to get all his 4 pawns into the Home is the winner. Others can keep playing to get 1st runner-up, 2nd runner-up and the loser. In a partnership game, the team that first gets all its 8 pawns into Home is the winner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Inauguration of Kreedaa Kaushalya 2009

Well known Kannada movie director, Sri K.S.L. Swamee (a.k.a. Ravee) and wife Smt. B.V. Radha (well known actress) came into the Pratima Gallery on the late Friday afternoon of 10 April 2009. The gallery was decked up with beautiful display of game boards and game accessories which were created in 29 craft forms of the country.

Dr. C.R. Dileep Kumar explained the guests about the game boards and how to play them.

The couple were completely engrossed with looking at the beautiful kalamkari game boards, game boards on low stools and pawns. As they came to the main display of the exhibition, they froze in their tracks, struck with wonder.

A part of a traditional brahmin's house stood in front of them complete with all details. The jagali with a tiled roof supported by wooden pillars, clothes hanging on rafters, old photographs, traditional rangoli designs on the wall ('kaarli'), a doorway opening into a small room which had a old display case, a small altar and a corner stand gave an authentic look to this main installation.

Radha and Ravee were excited looking at the house; they stepped onto the jagali and sat down to play a game of dice on the Navalgund Dhurry which had a central pagade woven into it.
Ravee was well versed with the game while Radha struggled to outwit her husband. These light moments coupled with a lively conversation regaled the audience.

Thus the couple inaugurated the exhibition in unique way. A nostalgic Ravee spoke about his childhood, education and formative years in Mysore and was highly appreciative of the organisers for meticulous arrangements. Smt. Radha spoke later and thanked Ramsons Kala Pratishtana for inviting the couple to inaugurate the event.
Among the audience present were Sri R.N. Murthy of Rangsons Group, Dr. T.M. Gopal, Smt. Radha Gopal, Dr. Nagaraj Sharma, veteran journalist Sri Krishna Vattam and Sri M.B. Singh

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hot Spot of Mysore This Summer

The place one should not miss this summer vacation, in Mysore, is Pratima Gallery which is in front of Mysore Zoo. As one enters the beautifully carved old wooden door of this gallery, a flight of stairs leads down to the gallery. There inside, lots and lots of beautifully created game boards give a colourful welcome. There are games boards created in as many as 30 craft forms and also tastefully created artworks that are specially commissioned for this exhibition.

It is not just an exhibition but a time machine, indeed. A look at those gorgeous game boards is a sure-fire ticket to one’s childhood. As I was engrossed looking at the displayed games, I heard a familiar sound. It was the hollow sound of shells, a group of children were playing Chaukabara with cowries in the game parlour at the gallery; umm! I am dragged back in time and suddenly I was a school kid again. During summer and Dasara vacations, we kids were holding our entire road to ransom by playing hide-and-seek, marbles, shuttle-badminton, cycling, etc. When our cousins came calling, we played board games with them indoors.

The heap of tamarind seeds - for us kids it was a veritable treasure with which we played umpteen games, all of it is flooding back to me. The game of ‘Sari-Besa’ in which one has to take a fist-full of seeds from the heap and the opponent had to guess whether the fist contained ‘sari’ (even) or ‘besa’ (odd). The seeds are then counted and if the opponent had guessed correct, the seeds are his, if not, nothing. Unwittingly, we were learning the concept of ‘even’ and ‘odd’ much before being taught at school.

As kids we had learnt basic concepts of mathematics even before joining school all because of board games. We were so obsessed with games that, we created games out of pretty well anything which we could lay our hands on. For few special things we had to go looking for them; many a times, our gang surreptitiously lurked around bangle stores and hunt for broken pieces of glass bangles. One might ask why, and the answer is – to play.

Kids are very creative with things. They can devise games out of anything, everything, and play. The converse of this is also true. That is, kids who play a lot will become creative. It is a wrong notion that creativity is required only for artists, actors and writers, but the fact is, creativity is useful for everyone – politicians, engineers, tailors, pujaris, farmers, home-makers, teachers, etc., etc., etc. Creativity inculcates the ability to think out of box, which helps a person to devise solutions for problems in any situation.

So if you want your kids to learn while having fun and also if you want to keep those dreaded diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay (it has been proven that playing board games regularly helps avoiding such diseases in old-age), then drop in at Pratima Gallery. A whole new world of traditional board games opens up in front of you. Ramsons Kala Pratishtana has organised its third annual game exhibition ‘Kreedaa Kaushalya’ which will go on till 19 April 2009.

Here, play a game of Pagade (Pachisi), marvel at the beautiful pawns of Adu Huli Ata (Goats and Tigers), learn the rules of playing ‘Navakankari’ (Nine Men’s Morris), get surprised looking at the gold painted chessmen and silver board of ‘Chaduranga’, ogle at beautiful boards of Aligulimane (Pallanguli), go up and down the game of ‘Paramapada’ (Snakes and Ladders) and if you are still not satisfied, you can also buy gorgeous game boards and their equally attractive accessories.

What are you waiting for, fold the newspaper, get up and get going. Have a healthy dose of pure unadulterated Indian entertainment with your family. Don’t worry it is for entire family; kids, especially, will love it.

PS: Please carry an extra hand-kerchief or two, if your octogenarian parents are accompanying you. The exhibition is notorious for triggering nostalgic tears in senior citizens.

Kreedaa Kaushalya 2009

Ramsons Kala Pratishtana
cordially invites you to
Kreedaa Kaushalya
third annual exhibition and sale of traditional games of India

10 - 19 April 2009
10.00 am to 7.00 pm
Venue: Pratima Gallery
Ramsons House, In front of Zoo, Mysuru 570010
T: +91-821-2449121. M: +91-9880111625

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Royal Abode of Govindji

Quarter of a century ago as a teenager on a business trip with my father I visited a city which has mesmerised me ever since. Belonging to a family which is involved in retailing Indian handicrafts and handlooms, traveling across the sub-continent to a select towns and cities to understand and analyse the process of manufacture and purchase artefacts and textiles came to me quite early.

Countless trips to the same city, she beckons me time and again and each trip has been an experience worth cherishing. It was here, long ago, that I tasted a 'paan' for the first time; I diligently chewed every bit of it releasing sweet juicy concoction in my mouth which I swallowed - I have remained a connoisseur of paan ever since.

The old city is enclosed within massive fort walls and entry is through huge gates; a guardian deity at each of these gates is dutifully worshipped till date. My favourite among them is Hanuman who is always magnificently attired and the most amusing sight was when the lord was shown wearing a Jodhpuri bandh-gala - a long coat with closed collars.

One of the magnificent sights of the pink city of Jaipur is the 17th century palace complex within which is the temple dedicated to Govindji. The sandhya aarati bhajans sung by a devout band every evening has a soothing effect on the minds of the faithful.

I visited Jaipur with Raghu this January. On a leisurely walk towards the Albert's Museum, on the wintry morning, I spotted half a dozen men squatting on the ground in front of the Sindhi dharamshala on Mirza Ismail Road, engaged in a game of Chauka Bara. They had scribbled the game pattern on the dusty ground with a piece of chalk; twigs and different sized pebbles became pawns while split tamarind seeds acted as dice. Raghu seized the moment catching the group on camera.

Further away were two teenage boys engrossed in the same game beside their idle cycle rickshaws.

I learnt that the game was called 'Chang-a-bu' or 'Challas' depending upon the version . The latter began with a successful throw of '4' while the play in former began with '1', the pawns which reached the central square in the 5x5 square game board are referred to as 'laal' or red (in most Indian board games the pawns that are in the race are considered as raw fruits and once they reach the destination 'home', they are said to ripen and turn red). I wanted to enquire more but the language became a barrier, the rajasthani dialect which they spoke was beyond my comprehension.

As we walked towards the Ramnivas Garden to visit the Albert Hall, little did I imagine that many more surprises were in store for us.

There were large murals on the museum's inner walls which were reproductions of famous works of art from across several civilisations; the one from the persian Mahabharata had a subject of our interest.

Reminiscent of mughal miniatures, the heavily clothed and turbaned Pandavas and Kauravas sat on a raised platform within a high ceiling hall supported by pillars; the geometric patterns of Bukhara carpet somewhat downplayed the act of Draupadi being disrobed by Dusshasana. Shocked and ashamed by the sudden turn of events, the central characters look sullen, despondent; Pandavas have their eyes downcast, being aware they are helpless in the situation. A scene from the epic stood frozen in time, on that wall.

Further in the galleries were several game boards, boxes and pawns. The museum brochure states that the core collection on display was purchased in 1880s through invitation from craftspersons across India.

A circular table of chess with 18x18 houses having beautiful inlay perhaps from the doab region of Punjab reminded me of the phulkari embroidery.

A walnut wood box painted with 4 playing cards amidst floral patterns looked like a miniature char-bag; it was undoubtedly from Kashmir.

The octogonal onyx chess table and another 12x12 board mounted on a latticed brass chowki is similar to the work done in present day Pakistan.

A fine specimen of Sadeli style ivory box is probably from Surat.

The magnificent card box overlaid with lattice worked ivory plates held together by metal pins on a rosewood box from the erstwhile vizianagaram state of Andhra Pradesh.

A Pachisi (Pagade) game board with intricate and colourful emroidery is most probably from the Kutch area of Gujarat.

Two miniature paintings in the collection of this museum executed in the registrar style merit mention. The first is a series of the tale of Vaishampayana wherein two seated men in jamas and wearing turbans play a game of Pachisi (Pagade).

Another miniature from the Baarah-masa series titled Kartika Masa, among other things depicts a couple gambling on the dark diwali night.

The recently renovated Albert museum which has been attracting visitors for almost 125 years looks all set to welcome museum enthusiasts and captivate their minds in coming years. The excellently produced audio guide is undoubtedly a tribute to its architect and designer Sir Swinton Jacob.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Divine Slumber on the River's Edge II

The last post that I wrote last was on my visit to the temple town of Srirangam. Nearer home is another temple town situated on an island formed by Kaveri (Cauvery). Two centuries ago as the ruthless colonisers tightened their stranglehold to loot the riches of the sub-continent, several independent kingdoms succumbed to the wily machinations of the British colonial power, many were subdued by threat of war, and war as well. Some of the royals were pensioned off, but several ruling princes refused to be cowed down by these threats, the Sikhs in the north, the Marathas in the west were among them. Not to be left behind in defending the independent territorry of Mysore were Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan - usurpers of the kingdom of Mysore from the ancient Wodeyar dynasty which ruled from this island fort since 1610 CE.

The British, in the garb of East India Company, were able to wrest this strategic military bastion after four bloody wars spread over almost quarter of a century.
About 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Mysore is the battle scarred town of Srirangapatna. As one approaches this town on the highway enroute to Bangalore, towards the left the placidly flowing waters of the Kaveri near the royal bathing ghat suddenly emerge as the road curves to right. Within seconds, one can see the crumbling walls of the massive fort, at a distance is the gopura (spire) of a temple. Further along the route after another curve, before we cross the bridge, the towering twin minarets of the 18th century A' la Mosque built by Tipu Sultan - all these were silent witnesses to the resistance against the colonial powers.

Today this town is fairly well known on the tourist circuit and the centre of attraction is the Sri Ranganatha temple, a majority of the activities revolve around this ancient temple also known as Gautama Kshetra. On 14th January 2009, myself and Raghu decided to visit this temple for three reasons on that auspicious day.

1. It marks the day of harvest festival Makara Sankranti, across India, when the newly harvested grain is cooked for the first time; a platter of goodies to tickle the palate.

2. The reclining deity, Ranganatha, which is 16 feet long is adorned with fresh butter which is applied as a thin coat over the image, about 80 kilograms of butter is consumed in this excercise. The dark complexioned deity in black chlorite schist is transformed into snowy fair handsome prince - it is a sight to behold.

3. Hundreds upon hundreds of earthen lamps are lit in the pathway to the temple to mark the opening of the Vaikunta Dwara - a gate located in the northern part of the temple kept locked all through the year is thrown open for devotees. This gate is the earthly representation of a similar divine gateway which leads to the abode of Vishnu.

With a sense of satisfaction and feeling positively energised, Raghu got busy with the camera shooting the stucco images above the granite pillars. I searched by a secluded corner to partake the sanctified food offering given to me by the chief priest Sri Vijayasarathy.

The brightly lit flag post area in the inner courtyard seemed a tranquil place, as I prepared to settle down near the pillar in front of the monolith statue of the celestial guardian 'Vijaya', I noticed a well worn Goats & Tigers game pattern.
Before I could share the discovery with Raghu, he had spotted an Aligulimane (Indian Mancala) pits, covered with dust, on the stone paved floor.

As we finished the circumambulation and passed through the Vaikunta Dwara, a giant sized rock cut pot to plant the sacred basil, Tulasi, beckoned us, as we admired the beautiful relief carving on it, at the base was another well preserved 'Goats & Tigers' game pattern.

Munching on the sugar candy offered at the Ranganayaki shrine, we walked past the main gate into the commotion outside where thousands of earthen lamps were brimming with oil, with a lone cotton wicke each, to be lit at the sunset.

We ascended the temple's main tower, Rajagopura, to have a long view of the people assembled. As we peeped out of the tiny window on the fifth floor of the gopura, in front of us was a beautiful vista. The twinkling flickers from miniature lamps was an inspiring sight - looked like a litup runway for the landing of celestial chariots flying down from heavens above.