Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How to Play Vimanam

Contents: 1 Game board; 2 sets of 6 coins (total 12 coins); 6 cowrie shells.

This is a two-player race game. Each player gets 6 coins of same colour and keeps it in his home outside the game board as shown in Fig 3. This is the initial position of the coins and every time they are cut, they return to their respective homes.

Goal: To bear off all six coins, first.

Throw of six cowrie shells:

  • One mouth up (Fig.2)- introduce one coin on starting square or move one square & play again
  • Two mouths up- move two squares
  • Three mouths up- move three squares
  • Four mouths up- move four squares
  • Five mouths up- introduce one coin on starting square or move five squares & play again
  • Six mouths up- move six squares & play again
  • No mouths up - move twelve squares & play again

How to play:

  1. The board is always kept in the centre during the game.
  2. Each player keeps his coins in his home as shown in Fig.1. The first square on the tail end near his home is his starting square ('a' is the starting square of player-1 and 'b' is that of player-2).
  3. Players alternately throw all six cowrie shells on the floor and move a coin as indicated by the throw of shells.
  4. The movement of the coins is different (shown by different arrows) for both players and is given as follows.
  5. Player 1: a-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l-n-q-r and off. (Blue arrow in Fig.4)
  6. Player 2: b-c-d-k-j-i-h-g-f-e-m-n-o-p and off. (Red arrow in Fig.5)
  7. If a player’s coin lands on a square occupied by opponent’s coin, then the opponent’s coin is cut and the player gets an extra turn to play.
  8. The cut coin returns to its home and has to be reintroduced on the starting square and go round all over again.
  9. The darker squares (rest squares) though, are safe places and no coins present here can be cut.
  10. Player-1 bears off his coin from ‘r’ while Player-2 bears off his coins from ‘p.’
  11. The first player to bear off all his coins wins the game.

Extra Turn:

  • Whenever a ‘one,’ a ‘five,’ a ‘six’ or a ‘twelve’ is got during a throw of cowrie shells, the player gets to play another turn.
  • When a player cuts opponent’s coin, he gets an extra turn to play.
  • During an extra turn, either the same coin or some other coin can be played.

Points to remember:

  • Both players’ coins move in the same direction at two places - from 'c' to 'd' and then from above 'd' to 'n'.
  • A player should cut his opponent in order to move his coins into the inner stem of squares (i.e., 'm' or 'l' to 'n'). Otherwise he has to move another coin or forfeit his turn until he cuts atleast one of the opponent coin.
  • If a player has cut once, all the coins can move into the inner stem, not necessary for every coin to cut opponent.
  • No limit for a player to cut opponents’ coins.
  • Each coin has to be first introduced (or reintroduced if it has been cut) on its starting square (on the throw of either a 'one' or a 'five') before it starts moving.


Some play this game using two stick dice instead of cowrie shells. Four sides of each stick dice contains 1, 2, 3 and 'null' dots. Both dice are rolled together on the gound and coins are moved according to the number of dots present on the top face of the dice when they come to rest.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice and wonderful information. Great work.
Team Ace2Three

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

THank you - very useful info. It will help a lot with my English presentation. :)

Anonymous said...

Amazing blog..Thanks for this collection

Paul said...

Thank you for the diagram and the instructions for this board game. I am in the process building these ancient games by woodburning them into plywood and decorating them in watercolor. Can't wait to play it!

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

Wow, that looks like it might be related to the ancient "Royal Game of Ur".

Karen Robinson

Ozymandias said...

Is this game the same as Bhadrakattam?

Unknown said...

Can the coins of player 1 and player 2 be kept in the same boxes marked by X?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
H.S. Dharmendra said...

@ Raamesh Gowri Raghavan: Hello. I have not come across this name until now. I googled the name and saw few game boards (from a single source) having slightly different pattern (I have seen similar pattern of Bhadrakattam etched on stone in lot of south Indian temple sites). The Vimana and Bhadrakattam seems to have been derived from a common ancestor which can be categorised as Single-Track-Race-Game.

@ Unknown dtd 10-10-2018: Yes, that's correct. The boxes marked 'X' are safe boxes and coins of both players can be kept in the boxes together.

sanjaykumar16 said...

Let’s say I need a two to bear off my last coin. But I roll a Thayam (one) and then a two. How should I move the coins?

life of change said...

@sanjaykumar16 you are stuck. if you need 2 to bear the last coin, either you have to roll thayam twice or roll 2 and win.

life of change said...

Can I get this board/cloth in bangalore or online by any chance,

Unknown said...

What to do when my both last coins are in (x) ?? Shoud i put 2 thayams(one) at a single chance??

Shashi said...

It's not counted as it becomes 1+2=3
But if 1st u get 2, then u Win

Shashi said...

No put 1 Thayam n move one coin, n roll once more n get 1 Thayam n finish the game

Shashi said...


Shashi said...

U can draw this game on a chart paper n play