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Games grandma played

Shankar Bennur
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You can try your hand at traditional board games.— Photo: M.A. Sriram
You can try your hand at traditional board games.— Photo: M.A. Sriram

Want to rediscover the traditional board games of India? Here’s an opportunity to go back to the days when such games were played at leisure at home with family members, particularly grandparents.

Kreeda Kaushalya, an expo of traditional board games of India, showcases hundreds of them, such as "ali guli", "aadu-huli aata", and "pachisi", under one roof. The expo, which began on May 10, will conclude on May 26 at Prathima Gallery at Nazarabad in Mysore.

The expo is drawing hundreds of visitors who are also buying the games to continue the tradition.

The expo is an initiative of Ramsons Kala Prathistana (RKP) Trust which has been striving to nurture, foster and share traditional handicrafts and encourage the craftspersons.

Annual affair

Kreeda Koushalya has become an annual phenomenon for RKP, which is aiming to revive the traditional games of the country.

Of course, the exhibition has been enthralling connoisseurs of art and enthusiasts of board games as it is showcasing the richness of gaming culture with hundreds of games and accessories created by artisans from across the country in various media. The expo also showcases the regional variations of the games specially commissioned by RKP.

“Kreedaa Kaushalya showcases the diversity of board games and visitors will get to see a variety of pachisi cloth boards, ali guli, pagade and aadu-huli aata sets. Even the chess figures and dice are made from a variety of materials such as lacquered wood, painted enamel, and semi-precious stones,” says R.G. Singh, Secretary, RKP, Mysore.

“Board games need a fresh transfusion of life,” he argues. From time immemorial, they were an integral part of family and social life, he explains.

Inscriptions

“If you go up the steps of Chamundi Hills and stop at the mahadwaara you will find incised in the stone, done perhaps years ago, the game of aadu-huli aata. The RKP research team, including me, Raghu Dharmendra and Dr. Dileep Kumar, have discovered similar inscriptions of many such games not only in the famous cave temples of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal but even in the great temples of Tamil Nadu and Orissa. Proof enough that board games were commonly played by the people,” Mr. Singh explained in a press release.

At the expo, visitors can test their skill by playing chess, number games, puzzles, “chouka baara”, “nava kankari”, aadu-huli aata” and “pagade".

RKP hopes that Kreedaa Kaushalya motivates visitors to seek out more such evidences in temples and other ancient sites and help create a research database of these ancient games.

“What Kreedaa Kaushalya does, as it has been doing since its inception in 2007, is reminding people of this heirloom heritage that once bound the family and the community together and can still do so in spite of the onslaught of TV and other distractions," Mr. Singh says.

Raghu Dharmendra, Curator, RKP, says that simple, concise instructions on how to play the various games will also be provided to visitors.

RKP plans to hold a city board games competition during this exhibition and depending on the response, State-wide and even national-level competitions would be held with perhaps a symposium on board games.

Shankar Bennur

A look at traditional board games of India