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the "Bhavishya Purana," (vide "Asiatic Researches," octavo edition, vol. ii., p. 160). We may here state, however, that Sir William Jones has given us only a very incorrect abridgement of the extract in question, and that he has at the same time deduced from it several inferences not warranted by the original, of which more hereafter. In the following Chapter, I shall lay before the reader what I believe to be a faithful translation of such portions of the Sanskrit text as bear upon our immediate inquiry. I must mention, however, that the original, is, in many places, so extremely concise in its style, that a mere verbal translation into English would convey no meaning. In such cases I have endeavoured to give the author's sense as clearly as I can, by adopting some slight degree of circumlocution.
It may be proper here to state that the Hindus are possessed of an immense collection of works in verse, entitled the Purānas. These are eighteen in number, and are partly Theological or Mythological, and partly Historical. They rank next the four Vedas in point of sanctity. As a general rule each Purana treats of the creation of the Universe, its progress and dissolution or renovation, the genealogy of the Gods, and interminable legends of fabulous heroes and warriors.
Next to the Purānas may be classed the two celebrated historical poems of India, the Rāmāyana, by Vālmīki; who is styled "the father of Hindu poetry," and the Mahabharata by Vyasa Deva Muni. These, like portions of the Purānas, are probably founded upon real facts, though highly coloured with the extravagant mythology of the country. At the same time, they are greatly to be admired for the elegance of the language in which they are written, and the faithful representation which they exhibit of the manners and customs of the Hindus in days of yore.
The events narrated in the Purānas and Mahābhārata, respecting the five sons of Pandu, of whom Yudhishṭhira was the eldest and most renowned, are supposed to have occurred a little more than 3,000 years before our era. The game of Chaturanga had by that time become popular in the country, and seems to have attracted the notice of Yudhishthira, who applied to the sage Vyasa, the Nestor of the day, for the benefit of his instructions on a subject so well adapted to his own peculiar disposition; for the youthful warrior, like a certain eminent military veteran of recent times, was strongly addicted to gambling; and in its infancy even Chess itself was a gambling game, if I may use such an expression. But unquestionably the favourite game among the ancient Hindus was that of dice, a knowledge of which, in those primitive times, formed one of the requisite accomplishments of a hero, just as skill in Chess was considered among us in the palmy days of chivalry. In Ward's "View of the History, &c., of the Hindūs," vol. iv., p. 433, where the author gives an analysis of the contents of the great epic poem of the Mahabharata, we have the following notice of Yudhishthira :- "This game (of dice) is sanctioned by the Shastra. Yudhishthira first lost his estates, then, in succession, all the riches in his treasury, his four brothers, and his wife, Draupadi. The conqueror's father, Dhritarashtra, was so pleased with Draupadi that he told her to ask what she would and he would grant it. She first asked for her husband's kingdom; this was granted. She was permitted to ask other blessings, till all that her husband had lost was restored. Yudhishthira again encounters Shakuni at Chess, and again loses all." Thus it would appear that Yudhishthira fared no better at Chess or Chaturanga than he had done with the plain dice. It is to be inferred that he ventured on the game too soon
after Vyasa's lecture, before he had sufficient time to gain experience.
The Mahabharata, like the Shāhnāma, of which more hereafter, is a gigantic poem which contains about 100,000 couplets. So far as mere quantity goes, this poem alone nearly equals all the hexametrical productions of Greece and Rome put together. An episode from the Mahābhārata, was translated into English verse by the Rev. H. H. Milman, M. A., Oxford, 1835. The subject is simply this, when Yudhishthira was utterly ruined after his play with Shakuni, his friend the sage Vrihadasva relates to him the story of Nala, an ancient Hindu prince, who, in his day, had been similarly situated, and who, after undergoing many toils and miseries at last recovered his kingdom. Nala owed all his misfortunes to the dice, for we may suppose this to have happened before the Chess period, the story being old even then, as we see by the opening lines of the poem.
Lived of yore, a Rājā Nala-Vīrasena's mighty son,
Gifted he with every virtue-beauteous, skilled in taming steeds;
Before we proceed to the translation of the Sanskrit extract from the Bhavishya Purāna, the reader is requested carefully to examine and bear in mind the arrangement of the pieces on the board for playing the game of Chaturanga as exhibited in the frontispiece.
Here the Green and Black are allied against the Red and Yellow. The Rook on the left hand of the King, represents the Elephant; and the Bishop represents the Ship. The King, Rook, Knight and Pawns, had then
precisely the same moves and powers as they have with us at this day, except that the Pawn could move only one square at starting. The Bishop moves diagonally to any third square, passing over the square next to him, which he does not command or attack. His move is no ways impeded by any piece placed in the intermediate square. His power is very limited, as it will be found that there are only seven particular squares of the board, besides the one on which he stands, where he can possibly be moved. This, however, is all the power the Bishop possessed both in Asia and Europe down to the beginning of the sixteenth century. It will also be found, on examination, that there are thirty-two squares on the board, which no Bishop could possibly cover!1 Another Another peculiarity attending this piece is, that not one of the four Bishops, allied or hostile, can attack any of the squares on which the three others are allowed to move; hence we see clearly the meaning of a verse in the Latin poem given by Hyde, from a MS. of the twelfth century, preserved in the Bodleian, viz., "Firmum pactum Calvi tenent, neque sibi noceant," i.e., "The Bishops maintain a solid compact not to hurt each other." Vide Hyde, "De ludis Orientalibus." Tome I. p. 180.
1 See the diagram explanatory of the term Vrihannaukā, in next chapter, page 24.
Translation of the Sanskrit Text. Moves and Powers of the Pieces, &c.
Yudhishthira said to Vyasa, "Explain to me, O thou super-eminent in virtue, the nature of the game that is played on the eight-times-eight squared board. Tell me, O my master, how the Chaturājī1 may be accomplished."
Vyasa thus replied: "O my Prince, having delineated a square board, with eight houses on each of the four sides, then draw up the red warriors on the east; on the south array the army clad in green; on the west let the yellow troops be stationed; and let the black combatants occupy the north.
"Let each player place his Elephant on the left of his King; next to that the Horse; and last of all the Ship; and in each of the four armies let the infantry be drawn up in front. The ship shall occupy the left-hand corner; next to it the Horse; then the Elephant; and lastly, the King; the foot soldiers, as already stated, being drawn up in front.2
1 Sir William Jones has erroneously stated that this game is more frequently called “Chaturāji." Now the term Chaturājī is not applied to the game at all; it only denotes a certain position or contingency that may arise in the course of play, which ensures the most complete species of victory, equivalent to our Check mate. The precise nature of the term Chaturājī is clearly described in the text.
2 It would seem, at first sight, that this is a mere repetition of the last sentence ; but such is not the case: the former sentence would have remained vague and indefinite without the latter.