Friday, July 10, 2015

Board Game in a Comic Book

Leo and Capri are two humanoid parrots, who are the lead characters of a new comic book series conceptualized by Mysore Lakshman Amarnath, a dreamer and artist.

So you have  brightly colored panels that tell of the adventures of Leo and Capri  which always ends in one of the parrots encouraging the other by telling a moral story. Something like Aesop’s Fables or the older Panchatrantra.

The comic serves a twofold purpose. First we have the entertaining tale of the misadventures of two parrots and how they learn from the fables to overcome their the pitfalls of life.

For instance in the one called, ‘Leo and Capri : The Cunning Trilogy’, three human weaknesses: greed, ingratitude and trickery, are the focus  while Leo and Capri in narrating these tales use them as object lessons that help one to face the slings and arrows of fickle fortune.

Then when one has come to the end of the book, Eureka! Here is a classic board game that beckons the entire family to hunker down and get down to the game of say, 'Aadu Huli Ata’  or Goats and Tigers.

Amarnath justifies the inclusion of a traditional board game saying that it not only firms the bonding of the family but also in creating a chess grandmaster’s brain in the player. He develops the ability of thinking several moves ahead, strategy and teamwork since in this particular game the goats and the tigers have to move with synchronicity to achieve their ends.

The traditional board games have been sourced from R.G. Singh of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru,  who conduct traditional board game workshops in various parts of the State  apart from hosting an annual exhibition of board games.

Each  comic book will contain a board game along with clear and precise step-by-step explanations on how to play the game. The game diagram itself is on a large format  so that the comic book itself can be used as a playing board.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Traditional board games workshop at Davanagere

A resurrection of interest in traditional board games was clearly evident at the Summer Camp organised by the Wiz Kids Academy of Davanagere. On invitation by Wiz Kids Academy, volunteers of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP)  taught about 12 traditional board games in a special three-day workshop from the afternoon of April 11 to the morning of April 14, 2015.

The thirty odd boys and girls had a rollicking time of their lives when they learnt board games from RKP Resource Persons comprising of R.G. Singh, Raghu Dharmendra, Dr. Dileep Kumar Gowda C.R. and artist Manish Verma.
Introductory talk by R.G. Singh and Dr. Dileep Kumar Gowda

The traditional board games like  Adu Huli Ata, Chaduranga, Aligulimane, Anay Kattu, Pagade, 16 Sepoys, Dash-guti  and several others were introduced to the wide-eyed kids many of whom were more at home with a hand-held mobile game than with a game whose playing surface was an intricate piece of embroidered cloth, colorful markers and wooden dice.
Two girls were interested to learn the complex hunt game - Anay Kattu

The rules of each game were explained patiently by RKP resource-persons. Many trial games were played to make sure the kids understood  the rules. Once the rules were grasped then it was a joyful free-for-all as small groups formed and reforms  before the games began.
Tiny tots engrossed in play

Perhaps it was the thin veneer of civilization of the kids that prevented major mayhem as they rolled dice, moved pawns, while others with some nifty strategy moved the sheep from the clutches of the tiger. Or Aligulimane where some kids seemed to show an extraordinary dexterity and mathematical ability.
Red guy is losing for sure in the game of Sixteen Sepoys

Hours later, the kids tired from the all the excitement of playing several games whose history goes back to an ancient past, finally called it a day, the minds were still on the game and all they could talk of was how they could have beaten their opponent if only they had only worked out one more permutation and combination then they would have had all three tigers pinned by a phalanx of goats.
Raghu Dharmendra and Dr. Dileep Kumar teaching the game of Four Handed Chaduranga

It was heartening to note that many of the kids claimed vociferously, as only kids will do, that they would play all the games that they had learnt here at the workshop in their homes  and that they would teach their parents and other siblings.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Article in Business Line

We were featured in the 'BLink' of The Hindu's Business Line on 9 Aug 2014. The following well written article by Ms. Rashmi Pratap can be read online here as well.

Board games BC

Emperors sat engrossed in front of them, as did commoners, and now a handful of people are attempting to revive the centuries-old board games of India
The Chennakesava temple in Belur, Karnataka, is not just an architectural marvel on the banks of the Yagachi river, it is also a repository of more than 20 board games, played possibly by priests as well as temple caretakers in the 12th century and until much later. Similarly, at the Mahalakshmi temple in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, the grid of the game Sixteen Sepoys is clearly visible on a stone plinth. And in Varanasi, the gateway to salvation, board games can be found etched into the platforms lining the banks of the Ganga, as also inside numerous temples. 
From Pallanghuzi to Pachisi and Chaupar to Chaduranga, a range of astonishingly inventive games were played by emperors and commoners alike in the centuries gone by.
Yesterday once more: Traditional board games researchers RG Singh and Dileep Kumar of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysore, play a game of Dash-guti etched on a platform at Sheetla Ghat in Varanasi. Pic: Raghu Dharmendra
Today, a handful of people are attempting to revive these traditional board games of India. Whether they are doing it as a non-profit initiative or as a commercial venture, their motivation is the same — to familiarise the internet generation with these games and preserve this precious legacy.
“We have documented ‘board’ games inscribed on the floors of over 100 temples, mostly in Karnataka,” says RG Singh, honorary secretary at Mysore’s Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP) Trust, whose hunt for traditional games has taken him from Orissa to Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu, other than the cave temples of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal in his home State.
Long before TV or movies were even dreamt of, how did our forefathers spend their free time? After mulling over the question for years, in 2000, Singh, together with Dileep Kumar and Raghu Dharmendra of RKP, began researching in earnest. “One of the things they did was play ‘board’ games, inscribed in temples, houses... The next question was, ‘Can we revive them?’” says Singh.
While curiosity was the germ of the idea for the RKP trio, it was the close bond with their grandparents that led Dr Ramya Surapaneni of Spardha Games and journalist Vinita Sidhartha of Kreeda Games to introduce board games like Puli-Meka (Tiger and Goat), Mancala and Dahdi (Nine Men’s Morris) to the masses.
Games grandparents play
“My grandparents used to babysit my children and, despite the 80-year age gap, my kids enjoyed spending time with them. They played games that my grandparents played when they were growing up,” recalls Sidhartha. Around 2002, when she became tired of content writing, Sidhartha decided to make these games for friends and family. “I also made some pieces for sale and we sold out in the first week. That’s how Kreeda Games was born.”
For dentist Surapaneni — who specialises in smile designing, and shuttles between Hyderabad and Indore for work — traditional games held values for life. “Winning and losing, following rules, learning to cope with loss and being a sport are traits that video games and computers can’t teach children,” she says.
She used to visit her grandparents regularly in Nimmakuru, Andhra Pradesh. “We bonded over board games. I also encouraged my cousins to visit them during the holidays. That’s when I realised that traditional games were a great way of inculcating values apart from strengthening family ties,” she says. She founded Spardha Games in February, and has since launched four games.
Both Sidhartha and Surapaneni used their savings and help from family to fund their ventures. Today, Kreeda sells anywhere from 500 to 1,000 games every month, priced between ₹100 and ₹800. Spardha’s prices range from ₹800 to ₹25,000.
Road to revival
Each of these revivalists had to surmount several challenges along the way. “You need pawns and dice, the manufacturing process has to be understood and artisans have to be roped in to create the games,” says Singh. Given his experience at Ramsons, an established company in the handicrafts sectors, Singh was confident the games could be made by artisans. But putting it all together took almost five years.

Pray, play: The Chennakesava temple at Somanathapura, in Mysore district, has carvings of the Mancala board game; (right) the Adu Huli , or Goats and Tigers, game grid inscribed on the wall of a well at the Chennakesava temple in Belur. Pic: Raghu Dharmendra

“By 2005, we engaged with craft clusters across India. We visited these places, understood the manufacturing process, and designed the product based on the motifs and other inputs provided by artisans,” says Singh. This project took him to inlay craftsmen in Mysore, Kalamkari artists and wooden toy (Etikoppaka) makers in Andhra Pradesh, Batik artists in West Bengal, hand-weavers of Solapur in Maharashtra and Pipli appliqué artists in Orissa.
As the manufacturers of traditional games prefer natural materials over plastic, achieving scale and finding the right supply-chain partners prove to be major challenges. “Many games are played with shells. We decided not to use them to preserve biodiversity. We researched and came up with a substitute — paper powder. But another challenge was to ensure that the probabilities (of the dice throw outcome) did not change with the use of other products,” Sidhartha explains.
RKP does not produce more than 800 games a year as all the pieces are handcrafted. “We don’t want to use mass methods of manufacturing,” says Singh. The prices start at ₹300 and go up to ₹20,000 for large pieces like the Mancala game board with 14 pits in brass, which can also be used as a showpiece.
At Kreeda, the various parts — dice, pawns, boards, packaging material, rules pamphlets and so on — arrive from different suppliers. “Each element of a game is sub-contracted to a specific supplier. We assemble everything in our own office. Managing inventory is very tough,” says Sidhartha, even as she looks for new ways to streamline supply chain and inventory management.
While RKP retails its traditional games on a non-profit basis (it runs a successful business in Mysore selling saris and handicrafts), Kreeda and Spardha are just about breaking even. “Financial challenges remain, but it is passion that keeps me going,” says Sidhartha.
Aside from logistical and funding challenges, these manufacturers are hampered by the absence of uniform rules for traditional games. Every few kilometres, the same game is played under different rules and even a different name. So, for instance, Goats and Tigers is known as Adu Huli, Puli Meka,Baag Bok, Huli Kattu and Bagh Bakri among a host of other names. “Our researchers use the common denominators from all such games to make the basic rules,” says Surapaneni.
Appealing to GenNext
Efforts are on to make the games more contemporary. Kreeda has created a module that teaches maths using traditional games, another for executive training, and an educational aid for specially-abled children. Its three-series game based on the Ramayana familiarises children with the epic and its characters.
Spardha, meanwhile, is attempting to carve out a new market by reminding people of the games that were traditionally gifted during a marriage. “In South India, there is a tradition of gifting board games at marriages. We are trying to revive that,” says Surapaneni, who already gets about a third of her sales from marriage halls.
As things stand, the revival of traditional games largely remains an urban phenomenon. The buyers are mainly from the older generation as they are likely to have played them or at least heard of them. An emerging category of enthusiasts comprises IT professionals eager to reconnect with their heritage. “They have also created gaming apps for Tic-tac-toe and Nine Men’s Morris,” says Singh.
The games are also a favourite with souvenir hunters and corporate gifters. “Many corporates are putting in bulk orders for occasions like Diwali,” says Sidhartha.
In the meantime, e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay and Snapdeal have weighed in with their own brand of support. “We can’t get their reach. We can piggyback on them and reach out to a larger audience,” says Sidhartha. She recently sold a game to a buyer in a small town of Spain. “Anybody who learns about them wants to try them.”
Mancala in Spain? The game is certainly on.
(This article waspublished on August 8, 2014)

Monday, December 2, 2013


When was the last time you played Goli on the streets of India ?
When was the last time you got tired hopping in a game of hopscotch ?
When was the last time you played a game of strategy and plotted your victory ?

Experience these games in many ways through 
a performance duet inspired by traditional Indian games
at Atta Galatta bookstore, Koramangala Bengaluru
at Alliance Francaise, Banjara Hills,hyderabad


Through performance and storytelling Re:play is a game that is played with the audience between the audience and within oneself.

The performance is an immersive experience of the sounds rhythms patterns structures colours and narratives that traditional Indian games lend themselves to. 
This 80-minute journey evokes themes of mythology contemporary events memory Indian history as well as Indian folklore and asks the audience to be present in unique ways. 
The audience becomes part of the performance and through their participation the performance gains a new meaning.

Dates and Time: 

29th Nov (7.00 pm), 30th Nov (2.30 pm & 7 pm) and 1st December (2.30 pm & 7 pm)

6th Dec (7.30 pm), 7th Dec (2.30 pm & 7.30 pm), 8th Dec(2.30 pm & 7.30 pm)

To know more about Re:play and the team, visit: Visual Respiration

To book tickets to this show, visit: Bookmyshow

Sunday, September 15, 2013

An Ode to Kreedaa Kaushalya

Games that were played from sun up to sun down
Those on which, parents never did frown.
They were played with passion and brought true joy
These were not just any old toy.

These were games which challenged the mind
And played where ever a little corner you could find.
They enchanted, entranced and excited the soul
Even if it was just dropping tamarind seeds into a bowl.

The 'gilli' that often made many a child smile,
While mothers spinned yarns, mile after mile.
Board games were not played because people were bored.
But played because they just could not be ignored.

Games give joy, take away pain.
Oh it's great to be a child, or, a child again.
May the creed of Kreedaa Kaushalya grow
And spread far and wide, high and low.

- Kalpana Singh

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kreedaa Kaushalya - battle royale

The inaugural day, May 10 of Kreedaa Kaushalya, the celebratory Mela of traditional board games organized by Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP)every year since 2005 was the scene of a battle royale with a six year old doing his best to beat his mother at Pagade by attempting to bend the rules a little.
The venue was the RKP’s Pratima  Gallery located above Aamarapali showroom on the Nazarbad main Road.
The six year old decided once well into the game  that he could make up a few rules as he went along  and caught red-handed by his sister, was about to be beaned with an umbrella by  his mother, sending onlookers into peals of laughter.
Then the beastly kid tried another tack. Play two games at the same time.
 The tigers and goats with his older sister and Pagade with his mother at the same time. Rules were flouted with impunity as the kid steam-rollered his way to victory that was suitably crowned by tap on his head by the umbrella wielded by his mother.
The sight of this family having a whale of a time was enough to encourage  another family to sit down and play a game of tigers and goats.
More chaos with  good natured squabbling lent an atmosphere of joy which soon infected other visitors.
The display of varieties of board games , from cloth based ones coffee tables that doubled as pagade and chess board, this was a feast for the ultimate  gamesman or games-woman.
Ranged alongside boards were Kalamkari game board sets of Aadu-Huli, Dash Guti, Chauka Bara, Snakes and Ladders , Solapur handwoven games board sets of Huli-Kuri, Aadu Huli and Chauka Bara, Batik Chauka Bara sets  as well as silk embroidery Chauka Bara sets, Solapur Hand woven Nine Mens’ Morris sets, Kalamkari Panchi sets, Solapur Hand woven Sepoy Mutiny sets and of course a variety of Aluguli sets in rosewood, inlaid onto to  miniature coffee tables and four-handed chess sets.
 This four handed chess set is attributed to Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, the Master of the Board.
There was also  a huge at least six feet by six feet chess set that could be folded into squares. The King, Knight and elephant were more than 10 inches tall while the pawns were about six inches tall. All the chessmen were intricately carved  figurines.
There were several other chess boards that were carved with inlay work onto smaller chess boards.
The exhibition and sale of these artistic traditional game boards will conclude on May 26.
Ramsons Kala Pratishtana hopes that the  the next year’s edition of
Kreedaa Kaushalya will include a board games tournament first at the Mysore District level, followed by State level and National level.
The Kreedaa Kaushalya al fresco tournament described at the beginning of this blog was not officially authorised by Ramsons Kala Pratishtana but such was the infectious gaiety that the mini arena does not exclude anyone from taking part.
The only credo is the love for board games  and the only language is the language of the games.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Play Games?

If you want your child to learn and also have fun at the same time, that too at a fraction of the cost, play a board game, say experts.

A 2007 study by Carnegie Mellon University showed in a group kindergarten children playing a board game with numbers, such as Snakes and Ladders, helped them improve their performance on mathematical skills.

A board game is a game in which counters or pieces are placed, removed, or moved on a pre-marked surface or 'board' according to a set of rules. Games may be based on pure strategy, chance or a mixture of the two and usually have a goal which a player aims to achieve. Early board games represented a battle between two armies and most current board games are still based on beating opposing players in terms of counters, winning position or accrual of counters.

For majority of board games, any plain flat surface can become a makeshift board game when a game pattern is drawn on it with a piece of chalk or charcoal or a sharp object. Any small enough objects like pebbles or twigs or seeds or bangle slivers can be improvised as game counters while cowries or split tamarind seeds serve as dice. At the end of the gaming session, the board and other gaming paraphernalia are abandoned. Another time and another place, a new gaming session starts with the drawing of a new game pattern. But for games like Chess, Pachisi and Snakes and Ladders, it is quite difficult to prepare game boards by oneself and have to rely on readymade boards and pawns.