Chennemane has been the popular indoor game played during "Aati". The other two games are "Chenne Chanduranga" and "Ekkadi".
You need not have a “Chennemane” – the wooden plank pits – to play the game, which was a speciality of a season of plentiful rain. You will find a similar game online called Mancala, an African count and capture game. The only difference is the number of pits. “While Mancala has six pits on each side, the traditional wooden “Chennemane” has seven pits,” says writer Vamana Nandavara.
This is how Mr. Nandavara explains the changing nature of the game which was earlier played in the month of Aati: “People have now started playing it throughout the year. The craze is such that people have started to take these Chennemanes to their homes in Mumbai and abroad. This game has now become a symbol of our culture and heritage.”
Chennemane has been the popular indoor game played during “Aati”. The other two games are “Chenne Chanduranga” and “Ekkadi”. “You do not find households playing Chenne Chanduranga and Ekkadi. There is one Ekkadi board displayed in the exhibition hall of Govindadasa College, Surathkal,” said Mr. Nandavara, who has written books on Tulu and its culture.
“As there is not much activity in the agriculture field during his month, our forefathers preferred to play Chennemane,” said Mr. Nandavara. Many of the terminologies used in the play are linked with agriculture. Some of them are “Bule Perga” (the produce earned) and “Muguli” (three seeds) denoting germination of a plant.
The game is played using red coloured “Manjotti” seeds of a creeper. “This game showed the strong bond our people had with agriculture,” he said.
Mr. Nandavara said that there are 40 different ways of playing the Chennemane.
The commonly played variant is the “Bule Perga”, which is played between two persons and “Arasu Aate”, which is played between three persons – a Aarasu (King), the Pradaane (the Minister), and Geni (a tenant). There is also the “Seete Aata” which can be played by only one. “This is an unending game. This is said to be the game which was played by Goddess Sita while she was waiting for Lord Rama,” Mr. Nandavara said.
Traditionally, Chennemane is played on the full moon day in “Aati” month after drinking “Metteda Ganji” or the “Paale Kasaya”. The game is played till Krishnastami. Then the boards (Chennemanes) are kept away and removed only during next “Aati”.
There are also beliefs that the game should not be played between husband and wife or between two sisters as it will result in clashes, he said.
Chennemane and other games in Tulunadu have been compiled in the book “Janapada Aatagalu” written by Gananath Yekkur. Reference to Chennemane is found in the collection of folklorists of German Anthropologist Peter J. Claus while he was writing about Siri Katha. This collection has been translated into Kannada by A.V. Navada and Subashchandra.