« PreviousContinue »
The game is practically unknown to the Sinhalese, and is never played in the villages; but some of the Tamil and other Indian residents in Colombo understand it well, and possibly a few Sinhalese of that city are acquainted with it. The only form of it which I have seen is the one known in Upper India by the Arabic name Shatren (with the accent on the last syllable and a nasal n). It is allied to the Turkish game, and is played without dice. The old Indian name Chaturanga does not appear to be used for it in Ceylon, notwithstanding the fact that Ludovisi mentions it by this title, which is applied there to a very different game.
Shatren is played by two persons on a diagram of sixtyfour squares, alternately red and white, embroidered on cloth or velvet. The pieces are cylindrical, plain green and red in colour, and of different heights and thicknesses. They are so made in accordance with Muhammad's prohibition of the use of human or animal figures.1 They are made of ivory or wood.
The only variations from the English game are, (1) the absence of 'Castling'; (2) the additional power of the King to jump at any time as a Knight, until he has been once in check; (3) the limitation of the first move of the Pawns to a single square; and (4) when any Pawns reach one of the last squares they can become only the piece that was in the same column or line of squares originally, provided such piece has been previously captured by the enemy, so as to be available for replacing on the board.
The pieces and their Indian colloquial names are as follows:The King is Shah; the Queen is Farthir (Persian Farzin); two Elephants, Fil; two Horses, Ghōdā; two Castles, Rūkh ; and eight Pawns called Piyatha (Persian Piyāda, foot-soldier) or Paithal, Footman.'
1 'O true believers, surely wine, and lots, and images, and divining arrows are an abomination of the work of Satan.' Sale's Quran, Chapter v. Sale states that the word 'images' is believed by commentators to refer especially to the carved figures of chess-men.
* In these words th is pronounced as in the English word then.
Check is Kisht; Check to the King, Shāh-kō-kisht; Check to the Queen, Farthi-kō-kisht; Stalemate is Burad, and Checkmate, Māt. To capture the pieces or pawns is to 'kill' them, as in Paithal-kō-marnā, to kill the Footman.' A
square is ek Ghar or ek Khāna, a house'; and to move the pieces is Chalnā.
OLINDA KELIYA, 'The Olinda Game.'
This is the game called by the Arabs Mankala, or as it is pronounced in Egypt Manala (with a nasal n, and the accent on the first syllable). It obtained the name which it bears in the interior of Ceylon from the small red seeds of the Olinda creeper (Abrus precatorius), the Tamil Kunḍumani or Kunṛimani, and Hindustani Rati, which are used for playing it there (Fig. 248).
In Ceylon, the board, Olinda-pōruwa, on which it is played has fourteen little shallow cup-shaped hollows, each, among the Kandians, about an inch in diameter, arranged in two rows at the sides, each containing seven hollows. There are two rectangular hollows between them, near the ends, or projecting at the ends or sides; it is usually decorated with tracery or other carvings, and is from 10 to 14 inches long. Some boards are made in one piece and often rest on four short legs; others are formed in two halves joined by hinges, so as to fold up. The rectangular hollows hold the captured seeds. (Figs. 249, 251 and 252.)
In Colombo, where a much larger board is used, with cups two inches wide (Fig. 250) the game is called by the LowCountry Sinhalese Chōnka or Chōnku, and is there played with cowries, the board, 17 inches long and 6 inches wide, being known as the Chōnku-lāēlla, 'the Chōnku plank.' Chōnku is not a Sinhalese word; it appears to be merely the Malay name for the game, Chonkak. Among the Tamils the name is Pallankuli, and the board is called Pallankuli-palakei, 'the Pallankuli plank '; either cowries or Tamarind seeds are used as counters in it. In Southern India I have seen some neat ones made of plain polished brass, with sunk cup-holes. Some Tamil boards in the British Museum
are of the shape of a fish; they consist of two halves joined by hinges (Fig. 253).
In the account of the ancient Cup-markings I have noted particulars of early sets of cup-holes cut in rocks for this game; they appear to be of not later date than the fourth century A.D., and in one instance may be still older. So far as is known, they are some centuries older than the time of the first influx of Arab settlers from India. The game may thus have been introduced into the island by early Indian traders.
Its antiquity in Ceylon is proved by the variations in the numbers of the holes cut for it. At Pallibaedda there are 18 holes each 1 inches in diameter, 9 being in each row, with an additional larger one at one end for holding captured seeds. At Galmediyāgala the holes are 12 and 14 in number; they are now only one inch wide and a quarter of an inch deep, but the weathering of the rock may have made them shallower than when first cut. At this site there are no less than five sets of holes side by side. Although it is thus evident that in early times the number of holes was variable in Ceylon, at present the boards used there and in Southern India have invariably 14 holes.
Several well-cut sets of similar holes are to be seen on the roof-slabs of the Kūrna temple in Upper Egypt, and on the summit of the damaged portion of the great pylon built in Ptolemaic times at the entrance to the temple of Karnak, as well as on the tops of the walls there and at the Luxor temple. The rows consist of 6, 7, and 8 saucer-shaped holes on each side, the largest ones being 3 inches wide and one inch deep. The finest set at Kūrna has 16 holes and is 2 feet long; the holes, which are admirably cut and finished, are 2 inches wide and one inch deep. Another excellently cut set of 14 holes on the top of the wall of the first or entrance court-yard at Karnak is also 2 feet long, the holes being 24 inches wide and one inch deep. In both these instances the centre lines of the cups are from 5 to 6 inches apart. On the Karnak pylon I also saw some holes, perhaps intended for this game, which consisted of two rows with only 4 and 5 cups in each. In all
these instances there are no surplus holes for the captured pieces.
Another set of 12 cups, 2 feet long, consisting of two rows from 4 to 7 inches apart, is cut at the south-east corner of the rock that forms the base of the Pyramid of Menkaurā, at Gizeh, on a large block of the rock which has since fallen over on its side (Fig. 256). The cups are from 2 to 2 inches wide, and from 1 to 1 inches deep, with a large one at the side, 2 inches wide, for holding captured pieces. These holes are much weather-worn, and are quite different in character from the shallow saucers cut by the modern Arab guides at the Great Pyramid of Khufu, for playing the game called Sīga; and they have every appearance of a much greater age. The Sheik of the Pyramids informed me that they had not been observed before I discovered them after a long search for such holes; he stated that no others are known there. It is possible that they were cut by the masons who were engaged in the construction of the Pyramid or some of the tombs near it, since in Muhammedan times there could be no reason why they should not be cut on the stones of the Pyramid, like the modern ones, rather than on a distant part of the rough basal rock. Holes cut in the rock for this game have also been found in Angola,1 and in the Ussindja district on the southern side of the Victoria Nyanza.2
At the present day the number of holes used in different countries varies greatly. In Egypt, and among the Bedwān and the Arabs of Suez, 12 holes are always used. An Asante board in the British Museum has the same number, and this is the number employed by the Mandinkō (Mandingoes), the Fulas, and the Wolofs, of Western Africa (Fig. 255), and also, according to Mr. Culin, in Liberia, in Benin, in the Gabūn, and among the Negroes in the West India Islands.3
In Syria, and the Philippines, and among the Malays generally, as well as in India, the number is 14. In the Maldive
1 S. Culin. Mancala, the National Game of Africa.' Report of the U.S. National Museum, 1893-4, p. 602.
a Kollmann. The Victoria Nyanza, p. 108.
3 Culin, op. cit. pp. 600, 601, 603.
4 Culin, op. cit.