In the area of recreation and sports India had evolved
a number of games. One would be surprised to know today
that games like, Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Playing Cards,
Polo, the martial arts of Judo and Karate had originated
in India and it was from here that these games were transmitted
to foreign countries, where they were further developed.
Kalaripayat from Kerala was transmitted to China by a
sage named Boddhidharma in the 5th century The Chinese
called him Po-ti-tama He taught this art in a temple This
temple is today known as the Shaolin temple.
Thus Judo, Karate, Kung Fu and other similar marshal arts
which are today identified with the far-east actually
originated from India. At times the changes made in the
original nature of the Indian sport-forms were so many
and so fundamental that the game lost all similarity with
its original form in India. Some Indian games were not
transmitted abroad and remained confined to India.
For instance we have Kabbadi, Kho-Kho, AtyaPatya, Malkhamb,
Gulli-danda, etc., which are being played today exclusively
in India. In this chapter we shall look into how the games
like Chess and Ludo (Snakes and Ladders), the martial
art of Karate, and Playing cards had existed in India
for the past 2000 years and how in some cases the indigenous
form of the game became totally extinct erasing the fact
that- the game had ever been played in India.
A game very similar to modern Chess and Ludo was played
in ancient India. In this game there used to be four participants
due to which it was named Chaturanga meaning 'four bodies'.
This four-bodied game was played with counters and a dice
(aksha). Another name for this game was Astapada meaning
'eight steps'. This game was perhaps the progenitor of
both modern day games of Chess and Ludo. There are instances
in Indian history of this game being played. Chess originated
in ancient India and was known as "Chatur-Anga" Meaning
4 bodied, as it was played by 4 players.
this name we have its current name "Shatranj" One such
instance is in the Mahabharata when Pandavas and Kauravas
play this game. Yudhistira the eldest of the Pandavas
places his bets on his kingdom, his wife Draupadi and
all other material possessions. And by a malevolent trick
he loses to the Kauravas everything that he had placed
his bets on. Consequently to humiliate the Pandavas, Dushasana
one of the evil Kaurava brothers takes hold of Draupadi
whom Yudhisthira has lost to the Kauravas, and tries to
disrobe her in front of the assembled court. The Pandavas
though powerful are helpless as they have lost Draupadi
and according to the rules of the game they have no claim
on her anymore.
distress, Draupadi invokes Lord Srikrishna to come to
her rescue. And in answer to her prayers the lord appears
and in a miracle sends a continuous stream of apparel
to clothe Draupadi's body. The evil Dushasana tires himself
out trying to tear away Draupadi's clothes but he is powerless
against the divine strength of Lord Srikrishna. After
hours of struggling to achieve his evil intention he falls
unconscious to the floor. Draupadi's honour is saved.
In deference to Lord Srikrishna's wishes, the Kauravas
relinquish their claim to Draupadi.
in return the Pandavas are obliged to relinquish their
kingdom for fourteen years and go into exile in forests,
after which they return and regain their kingdom from
the Kauravas, but not before a devastating war is fought
between the two clans on the battlefield of Kurutshetra.
The Mahabharata story throws light on the fact that a
game similar to Chess was played in ancient India.
Mahabharata is variously dated around 800 and 1100 B.C.
Thus this game was known in India nearly 3000 years ago.
It is the view of some historians that this game was also
used in the allocation of land among different members
of a clan when a new settlement was being established.
The Indian origin of the game of chess is supported even
by the Encylopedia Britannica according to which, "About
1783-89 Sir. William Jones, in an essay published in the
2nd Vol. of Asiatic Researches, argued that Hindustan
was the cradle of chess, the game having been known there
from time immemorial by the name Chaturanga, that is,
the four angas, or members of an army, which are said
in the Amarakosha (an ancient Indian Dictionary - S.B.)
to be elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers.As
applicable to real armies, the term Chaturanga is frequently
used by the epic poets of India. Sir William Jones' essay
is substantially a translation of the Bhawishya Purana,
in which is given a description of a four-handed game
of chess played with dice." "Sir William, however, grounds
his opinions as to the Hindu origin of chess upon the
testimony of the Persians and not upon the above manuscript,
He lays it down that chess, under the Sanskrit name Chaturanga
was exported from India into Persia in the 6th century
of our era; that by a natural corruption, the old Persians
changed the name into chatrang. But when their country
was soon afterwards taken possession of by the Arabs,
who had neither the initial nor the final letter of the
word in their alphabet, they altered it further into Shatranj,
which name found its way presently into modern Persian
and ultimately into the dialects of India." The Encyclopedia
Britannica further says that Wander Linde, in his exhaustive
work, Geschichte and Litteraturdes Schachspiels (1874),
has much to say of the origin-theories, nearly all of
which he treats as so many myths.
agrees with those who consider that the Persians received
the game from the Hindus. The outcome of his studies appears
to be that chess certainly existed in Hindustan in the
8th century, and that probably that country is the land
of its birth. He inclines to the idea that the game originated
among the Buddhists, whose religion was prevalent in India
from the 3rd to the 9th century.
According to their ideas, war and slaying of one's own
fellow-men, for any purpose whatever, is criminal, and
the punishment of the warrior in the next world will be
much worse than that of the simple murderer, hence chess
was invented as a substitute for war. " "H.J.R. Murry
in his monumental work A History of Chess, comes to the
conclusion that chess is a descendant of an Indian game
played in the 7th century."
to the Encylopedia "Altogether, therefore, we find the
best authorities agreeing that chess existed in India
before it is known to have been played anywhere else.
In this supposition they are strengthened by the names
of the game and some of its pieces. Shatranj as Forbes
has pointed out, is a foreign word among the Persians
and the Arabians, whereas its natural derivation from
the term Chaturanga is obvious. Again affix the Arabic
name for the bishop, means the elephant, derived from
alephhind, the Indian elephant." Even the word checkmate
is derived from the Persian term Shah Mat which means
'the king is dead!'.
Sanskrit translation of this term would be Kshatra Mruta.
Another term viz. 'the rooks' which is the name for one
set of the counters used in chess, originated from the
Persian term Roth which means a soldier. The Persian term
according to the Encyclopedia is derived from the Indian
term Rukh, which obviously seems to have originated in
the Sanskrit word Rakshak which means a soldier from Raksha
which means 'to protect'.
the introduction of this game into Persia, the Encylopedia
says that "The Persian poet Firdousi, in his historical
poem, the Shahnama, gives an account of the introduction
of Shatranj into Persia in the reign of Chosroes I Anushirwan,
to whom came ambassadors from the sovereign of Hind (India),
with a chess-board and men asking him to solve the secrets
of the game, if he could or pay tribute.
king asked for seven days grace, during which time the
wise men vainly tried to discover the secret. Finally,
the king's minister took the pieces home and discovered
the secret in a day and a night." The Encyclopedia Britannica
concludes that "Other Persian and Arabian writers state
that Shatranj came into Persia from India and there appears
to be a concensus of opinion that may be considered to
settle the question.
we have the game passing from the Hindus to the Persians
and then to the Arabians, after the capture of Persia
by the Caliphs in the 7th century, and from them, directly
or indirectly, to various parts of Europe,
at a time which cannot be definitely fixed, but either
in or before the 10th century. That the source of the
is Arabic is clear enough, nor merely from the words "check"
and "mate", which are evidently from Shah mat ("the king
is dead"), but also from the names of some of the pieces".
Thus it was from India that theancient Persians are said
to have learnt this game, and from them it was transmitted
to the Greco Roman world. The evidence of the Persians
having borrowed this game from India is seen in the name
the Persians gave to it.
Persian word for chess is Chatrang, which was later changed
by the Arabs to Shatranj. As said in Encyclopedia Britannica,
thig word is obviously a corruption of the Sanskrit original
Chaturanga. The other term Astapada meaning eight steps,
which was also used to describe this game in ancient India,
perhaps was a description for the eight steps (Squares)
which the modern Chessboard, has.
modern Chessboard is chequered with 64 (8 x 8) squares
in all, with eight squares on each side. The old English
word for chess which is Esches, possibly stems from this
eight squared aspect of the game as did the Sanskrit word
THE MARTIAL ARTS - KARATE AND
JUDO: Many eyebrows
would be raised when an Indian lays claim to the martial
arts of Judo and Karate. Such askance is understandable.
Everybody the world over knowns that it was the countries
of the far-east China, Korea and Japan who have given
these arts to us. The finest exponents of Karate, Judo
come from these countries, schools like Shaolin and Ninja
that have nurtured these arts are from the far-east. But
in the distant corner of India a dying martial art exists
which comes significantly close to Karate.
art from is called Kalaripayate. The practitioners
of Kalaripayate have to develop acrobatic capabilities
and use swords or knives to attack an opponent Judo and
karate which are coming to India from the far-east originated
in ancient India This art from seems to have travelled
from India to the countries of the far-east alongwith
the Buddhist religion. Buddhists monks who travelled barefoot
and unarmed to spread the gospel of Buddha seem to have
accepted this art with alterations suitable to the philosophy
Such a technique of defence would have been necessary
for them as they travelled individually or in small groups
in foreign lands during which they were exposed to dangers
from bandits and fanatics from other religions. Buddhist
monks seem to have tempered the originally violent character
of this art.
violent and exterminative nature of Kalaripayate is evient
from the daggers and knives that are used. Unlike Kalaripayate,
Judo and Karate do not allow the use of lethal weapons.
The aim of a Karate practitioner is mainly to disarm and
disable his opponent without mortally wounding him. This
can be looked upon as a reflection of the Buddhist attitude
towards life. Further both Judo and Karate are deeply
interwoven with meditation unlike other martial arts like
boxing, wrestling, fencing, etc.
concentration aspect in Judo and Karate perhaps stems
from this. Both Judo and Karate are sought to be kept
as arts to be used for just purposes for pro tection of
the weak, etc., The oath that every student of these disciplines
has to take is evidence of this. A teacher of Judo or
Karate traditionally commands deep respect of students
and a lesson always starts with a bow of the students
to the teacher.
teacher here is not looked upon only as a coach as in
western martial arts like boxing and fencing. This relationship
between a teacher and student in Judo and Karate could
have its roots in the Guru-Shishya tradition of India.
it is quite possible that these martial art forms originated in southern India
and were transmitted to China, Korea and Japan by Buddhist monks. But it has to
be conceded that they were neglected in India where like Buddhism they atrophied
and today the world considers them to be a legacy bequeated by the countries of