Monday, February 11, 2013

International Recognition

A well known newspaper of UAE, The National, on 10 February 2013 carried an article titled Foundation meets demand for traditional Indian board games. We have been featured in it along with Kreeda Games of Chennai and Kavade of Bangalore. Following is an excerpt from the article.

When Raghu Dharmendra visits temples in remote corners of India, he peers at the floor. If necessary, he takes photographs.

Inevitably, somebody will ask him what he is doing. If he has found what he is looking for, Mr Dharmendra points to lines etched into the floor that make up the template for an old Indian board game.

In the olden days before cardboard and plastic, he explains, the floor would have formed the game board.

"And then people will get excited, and they'll talk about playing the game and tell us how it's played," said Mr Dharmendra, who designs board sets for traditional games for Ramsons Kala Prathishtana, a Mysore-based crafts foundation.

Mr Dharmendra's search in India's small towns and villages has yielded him the details of roughly 40 games, 21 of which his foundation has produced for sale. Every two years, he organises Kreeda Kaushalya, a tournament of traditional board games.

Across the country, a handful of individuals such as Mr Dharmendra are trying to revive interest in traditional Indian board games. Many of them are so ancient that they have travelled overseas and, in turn, inspired some of the West's most venerable games.

Pachisi, dating back to roughly the 6th century, gave rise to Ludo. Another game - called Gyan Chaupar in north India and Paramapadam Sopanam in the south - inspired Snakes & Ladders and may have even contributed key elements of The Game of Life, Milton Bradley's 1860 board game.

But board games in the India of today, competing as they do with computer games, television and the internet, are rapidly fading away.

Indeed, some are on the verge of extinction. Mr Dharmendra cites the example of Tablan, of which he has only ever seen two specimens.

"We don't even properly know the rules of this game yet," he said. "There's a rumour of one family living in north Karnataka that knows the rules well. But we haven't yet been able to go there to find them."

The Ramsons handicrafts showroom in Mysore is about 40 years old, but the foundation's efforts to support craft communities was started only in 1995. Its interest in board games began in 2000, spurred, according to Mr Dharmendra, by one question: "Why aren't we able to find the board games we played as children?"

To read the entire article, click here.