Sunday, June 17, 2018

Seeta Devi Ata - 2

Seeta Devi Ata is a solitary game in Aligulimane (Mancala, Pallanguli). In oral traditions of Ramayana in South India, it is said that when Seeta was in Ashoka Vana as a prisoner of Ravana, she  played this game.

Mr. Shantaram looks on while his wife Mrs. Asha is teaching us the game of Seeta Devi Ata - 2
If you are alone and want to play a game on your own, this is a great pastime. The original version of this game (let us call it Seeta Devi Ata -1) is slightly different from what is shown here. Another version of this game was taught to me today (17 June 2018) by Mrs. Asha Shantaram. She learnt this game from her late mother-in-law Radhalakshmamma Addepali.  I thank Mrs. Asha and also Radha ajji.

'What is the name of this game?' I asked Mrs. Asha, but she did not remember. Anyhow I am calling this game as 'Seeta Devi Ata - 2'. I will soon post a video of how to play the Seeta Devi Ata -1 which was taught to me by Shyamala Garudachar (we called her paati) who lived on the first floor of our house. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Collectors' Delight

Ramsons Kala Pratishtana has not only designed and produced regular board games and pawns for day-to-day use but also have designed and produced museum-quality collector's edition board games and pawns. These are sure to be conversation pieces if displayed in the drawing rooms. Of course they can also be used to play, but sparingly!

1. Pagaday - Pacheesi. Kalamkari board, camel bone pawns (seated Mughal musicians) with gold leaf painting and wooden stick dice

2. Pagaday - Pacheesi. Kalamkari board, camel bone pawns (standing Mughal sepoys) with gold leaf painting and wooden stick dice

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Techies drawn to Aliguli Manay, Pagaday

The picture that most commonly depicts a ‘Techie’ or to use a more prosaic term, Software Engineer, is of a young man or woman dressed in uber cool outfits, glued to an iPad or one of those high end mobile phones or more often than not using these gadgets to play a variety of complex games. It seems that this is blatantly untrue!

At the ongoing  Kreedaa Kaushalya, the exhibition of traditional board games at the Ramsons in front of the Mysuru Zoo, it was a pleasant surprise to the organisers to see techies avidly buying the traditional board games like Aliguli Manay, Pagaday and Adu Huli Ata!

Why ?

The reply was astonishing and astounding. "We thought that we would spend the weekend playing Aliguli Manay. and Adu Huli Ata" was the answer.

One of them said, "I have seen this (Aliguli Manay) in my grandmother’s house and recall my mother and other family members playing this game on Sundays. The whole family would gather around the players. It was great fun."

Nostalgia? Memories of grandma’s tales from the past?

"No", replied another. "This is a part of our tradition. I think we should do all that we can, to foster it. And what better way than sitting around and spending an enjoyable weekend day playing it."

Said another, "this game, tigers and sheep or goats... or leopards and cows... who cares... the game is sheer fun. Its tactile.There is communication between the players and their supporters, support that is at once loud and noisy with a lot of back-slapping.”

Adds yet another techie, "Ultra modern computer games do not give us this high."

"The very act of placing the tiger or the sheep and not knowing one misstep could mean ‘a tiger’s meal’ or a tiger cornered... this is fun. Everybody screams as you head towards disaster...” he continues. There is delighted laughter.

Another visitor, a Mysorean by birth and who is currently one of the top honchos of a software company in the USA was in Mysore for a sabbatical with her sons. Hearing about  Kreedaa Kaushalya, she had dropped by with her son. The mother and son duo were drawn to the traditional game boards display at  Kreedaa Kaushalya.

Spotting the variety of Aliguli mane boards, the boy turned to his mother, “Oh, man, that’s mancala, isn’t it ?”

They tried their hand at ‘Choukabara’ and finally settled for “Adu Huli Ata.”

Likewise the husband, wife and little daughter from Silicon Valley in the USA were here in Mysore visiting the husband’s parents. Their evening visit to  Kreedaa Kaushalya led to an impromptu game of Aliguli Manay. The father’s attempt to teach his little daughter to pronounce, ‘Chouka bara’ resulted in the girl pronouncing, "Chouko - baaro”

Peals of laughter rang out as the father picked a choukabara set and exclaimed, "Chou-koo  baaro!"

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Inauguration of Kreedaa Kaushalya 2017

The ninth edition of the traditional board games exhibition, Kreedaa Kaushalya , was inaugurated this morning with the traditional lighting of the lamp by Maharajakumari Indrakshi Devi and Sri R. Raja Chandra at 'Ramsons' the flagship store of Handicrafts Sales Emporium, in front of the Zoo in the city. 

The chief guest Dr. H.P. Devaki, Director, Oriental Research Institute (ORI) of the University of Mysore, released seven new board games that have been introduced this year.

More than 1000 games representing 37 odd games are on display. The exhibition is open from 10 am to 7 pm, daily and will conclude on 14 May 2017. 

L-R: Sri R. Raja Chandra, Prof. D. Srijay Devaraj Urs, Sri D. Ram Singh, Dr. H.P. Devaki and Sri R.G. Singh

L-R: Sri R.G. Singh Sri R. Raja Chandra, Maharajakumari Indrakshi Devi avaru, Smt. Prameela Victor and Sri D. Ram Singh

The layout of the exhibition
Lighting the lamp by Maharajakumari Indrakshi Devi avaru for an auspicious beginning of the exhibition

Sri R. Raja Chandra and Maharajakumari Indrakshi Devi avaru inaugurated the exhibition by rolling the dice for a game of Pagaday

Sri R. Raja Chandra and Maharajakumari Indrakshi Devi avaru inaugurated the exhibition by rolling the dice for a game of Pagaday
Dr. H.P. Devaki releasing the game board of '28 Sepoys' 

Game boards on trays and manays (low stools)

Four handed Chaduranga

A game of Anay Kattu

Collector's edition of Chess men made out of teak wood and painted with gold

A game board of Taabla
Pictures are by Sri Suraj M.N.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kreedaa Kaushalya 2017 Brochure

It has been over a decade since Kreedaa Kaushalya, the exhibition of traditional board games of India, was first organised by Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP). This passion project of RKP has been through an interesting journey so far.

The alluring world of our traditional games is vast. It was a pair of dice that led Arjuna to be blessed with the Bhagavadgeetha Upanyasa by none other than the Lord Sri Krishna himself. It was Arjuna's eldest brother Yudhishthira's defeat in a dice game match that set the stage for the timeless epic Mahabharata.

Many games over the centuries are forgotten due to sheer neglect. There are a handful of surviving texts that speak of quite a number of games of various complexities. A few games have been disco-vered but with no instru-ctions of play. We at RKP have successfully resea-rched and introduced about 30 games over the past 10 years through Kreedaa Kaushalya exhibitions. This year we have seven new additions to our ongoing project of ancient games of India. These are - Taabla (1), Twenty-eight Sepoys (2), Huli Kallu (3), Basavana Ata (4), Daya Kattam (5), Immadi Huli Kattu (6) and Twelve Men's Morris (7). We have introduced hand-made, recycled-paper boxes for the packaging of games - this is an important feature this year.

The International Society for Board Games Studies, conducts an annual colloquium by inviting scholars to present papers on board games from across the world. We took part in the 19th International Board Games Studies Colloquium last year at Nuremberg, Germany. A booklet containing instructions about how to play games was released in that meet; this is available at this year's exhibition.

In the early 1800s Mysuru saw a quiet cultural renaissance under the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar spanning over 7 decades. His late Highness, with his profound sense of aesthetics, promoted literature, art and crafts to unseen proportions. It is because of this seer-king that Mysore is recognized as the cultural capital of Karnataka. Many new games were designed and their rules framed by him. The painting which graces the cover of the english part of this flier depicts Mummadi directing a court artist to paint the game pattern of 'Shiva Sayujya Mukti Ata', while the painting on the cover of the kannada part shows Mummadi and his friend Subbarayadasa playing the game of 'Srikanta Sayujya Mutki Ata' which was invented by the former.

Mummadi has recorded popular board and card games of his time, along with his newly invented games, in 'Kautuka Nidhi', the last chapter of his magnum opus 'Sri Tattva Nidhi'. This stands as a proof of his work on these intriguing board games that were once famous among the populace in this land. In fact, Mysuru is the 'Board Games Capital of India', thanks to Mummadi and his passionate work on board games. Kreedaa Kaushalya is an attempt at reviving the tradition of board games which not only impart regulatory and strategic skills to any avid gamer but also great fun and deepens family bonds.

At this expo, Channemane, Chauka Bara, Pagaday, Panchi, Vimana and many more games have come alive on colorful boards made in different craft forms of India. Hundreds of artists from nine states have worked for nearly a year in making this expo a possibility.

Expo is at our 'Ramsons' store in front of Zoo.

Come with your family, friends; enjoy the games and have fun.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Furniture Turns Flooring

The noted collector of paintings and artefacts Sri Kuldip Singh of New Delhi invited Raghu and me to join him on a whirlwind three day- tour of the monasteries and temples in Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts of Tamil Nadu. Sri Kuldip Singh is a senior architect who has during his early career acquired a fantastic collection of traditional Thanjavur and Mysuru paintings.

It was in this connection that we were in Thanjavur to view surviving specimens of frescoes and Thanjavur paintings. On the very first day, I was able to view at leisure the magnificent Chola period paintings along the pradakshina patha (the traditional cirumambulatory path that the devotee treads) of the Brihadeshwara temple. Normally this is not allowed as the temple is under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India’s Monuments Protection laws. But thanks to the senior prince of the erstwhile Thanjavur ruling family, Sri Babaji Rajah Bhonsle who made a request to the ASI officer on our behalf that the padlocked doors were opened.

The stark white light of the LED light fixtures brought alive the art of the Chola era painters who worked here a millennia ago.

Before that, early in the morning we visited the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam which is an ancient Shaivite monastery in Thiruvaduthurai village in Kuthalam taluk of Nagapattinam district. This huge 16th Century Shaivite monastery nestles in large swathe of greenery and undulating agricultural land owned by the monastery.

As we entered the main door, we were welcomed by the life-size murals of the Maratha rulers of the old Thanjavur kingdom. Pairs of kings and their queens flanked two door ways, each which led to ante chambers.
Portraits of a king and queen of Thanjavur Maratha royal family flanking a doorway
The  Maratha rulers were not only patrons of the arts but were also patrons of temples and monasteries. We slowly ambled into the main hall. A huge door onto our left led us further into a dark hall with a small shrine at the farther end.

All along the outer walls of this shrine are murals of portrait images of the Peethadhipathis (the spiritual heads) within painted niches. Immediately behind the shrine what catches one’s eye is the flooring itself. There does not seem to have been any plan in the laying of flooring. The flooring tiles were brightly coloured while the surrounding borders of Italian mosaic were further adorned with 18th century European ceramic tiles. In this seemingly paradoxical layout embedded into the floor were two large marble table tops. One was octagonal while the other was square.
A square marble table top with an inlaid pattern of chess embedded in the floor
These marble slabs were inlaid with semi-precious stones in the pattern of chess. They were probably from the workshops of master-craftsmen of Agra. The pietra dura technique used to insert floral patterns of semiprecious stones into slabs of marble thus creating stunningly beautiful decorative art are typical of the Agra craftsmen. These two specimens were inlaid with jasper, onyx, lapis lazuli, jade and mother of pearl.
R.G. Singh in front of the octagonal marble table top (inlaid with chess pattern) which is embedded in the floor

Overall one get's the idea that these were once tabletops. Somewhere along with the passage of time, they must have fallen into disuse and discarded. Some ingenious mason must have had the idea of embedding them into the floor. The bare feet of several hundred visitors who circumambulate around the sanctum sanctorum have, over the years, given these embedded tiles and of course the chess boards, a permanent polish.

Coming out in the bright sunlight we moved next door to the temple of Maasilamaniswara who is the guardian deity of the Monastery.
Main entrance gopura of the Maasilamaniswara temple amidst greenery at Thiruvaduthurai village
Walking past the ornate dhwaja sthamba (flag post) we moved into the cool dark large pillared hall. Opposite was the main door leading to the sanctum. Now comes the ‘eureka‘ moment... On the stone floor, neatly inscribed, was a game of Goats and Tigers on the left side of the door while on the right side was the game of Nine Men's Morris.
The inscribed pattern of Goats and Tigers near the doorway of the temple
The dim light, the cool and quiet ambience was the perfect setting for settling down for an impromptu game of Goats and Tigers... which is exactly what I and Raghu had in mind but could not for the want of time.
A game of Navakankari (Nine Mens Morris) inscribed on the stone floor near Raghu's left hand
All photographs are by Raghu Dharmendra except the last one which is by me.