Written by ALEYA DUTTA CHOUDHURY
Mumbai University is hosting the ancient games weekend on June 16 and 17. This event attempts to revive 13 Indian games from well-known ones like chess and gulli-danda to lesser known ones like Pallanguzhi, which involves the collection of cowrie coins.
This idea was presented at an Geology and Archaeology exhibition last year at the University, where it was met with enthusiasms. “We had three generations of people excitedly crowding around the game stall. There was a 70-year-old man teaching an 8-year-old girl strategy. Through the game they struck up an otherwise unlikely friendship,” says Yogini Aatreya, a student organiser of the games.
Aatreya is particularly excited about organising Pachisi, a game she read about in the Mahabharata. “It was the infamous game, where he lost everything, including Draupadi to the Kauravas.” A lot of these games require mental agility and strategic thinking. Navakankari, a two-player game, inspired by Indo-Roman trading and requires quick thinking and agile moves. “Reviving games like these will provide an alternate option to children, who spend most of their time on playstations,”says Mugdha Karnik, Director, Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of Mumbai. “It gives them an opportunity to exercise more than just their thumbs,” he says.
“It has taken extensive research to unearth most of these games,” says Dnyaneshwari Kamath, a student at the Centre for Extra Mural Studies. “For instance we uncovered the existence of the game Ashtapada, a forerunner of chess, from an ancient text about Buddha. We poured over several research papers, inscriptions on temple walls and even used information sourced from our grandparents to figure out the rules of
The fact that no fancy software is required to create equipment for these games is quite appealing, Kamath says. “The games can be played by picking up materials around us. Take Kattapanni, which is played with pieces of bangles, which is something found in any Indian household,” says Kamath. “It isn’t very costly and no large-scale preparation is required. It can be played with friends and family easily. In other games,sometimes the game board can even be drawn on paper.”
The small round seeds used for Sagar Gote have already been sourced from a nearby farm and all the game boards and equipment are drawn and ready. The games are open for all and will be held both indoor and outdoors at the Health Centre building, Kalina Campus. “Ultimately the goal is to bridge the inter-generational gap while simultaneously having fun,” says Aatreya. “Playing these games will also help you reconnect with ones roots.”