Page images

"If, on throwing the die,' the number should turn up five, the King or one of the Pawns must move; if four, the Elephant; if three, the Horse; and, if the throw be two, then, O Prince, the Ship must move.

On the Moves of the Pieces.

"The King moves one square in all directions; the Pawn moves one square straight forward, but smites an enemy through either angle, in advance; the Elephant, O Prince of many lands, moves (so far as his path is clear) in the direction of the four cardinal points, according to his own pleasure; the Horse moves over three squares in an oblique direction; and the Ship, O Yudhishṭhira, moves two squares diagonally.

1 The die alluded to is an oblong, four-sided one, used by the natives of India to this day in some of their own peculiar games, such as the game of Chaupar, in which, according to Abu-l-Fazl's description in the “ Ayīni Akbarī” the dice used had "on one side, one spot; on the second, two; on the third, five; and on the fourth, six." In the second volume of Hyde's work, page 68, we have a brief account of this game, together with a figure of the board and dice, agreeing on the whole with that of Abu-l-Fazl, save that the dice are marked, one, three, six and four; the ace being opposite the six, and the three on the reverse side of the four. In a similar manner, the dice for the Chaturanga had the four numbers, two, three, four, and five; the three and four, as also the two and five, being opposite each other, so as to make the amount seven, as in our own cubic die.

2 Sir William Jones, and his learned friend the Brahman Radha Kant, have fallen into a very serious error respecting the move and power of the Elephant. They have translated the passage, "the Elephant moves in all directions as far as the driver pleases ;" and, further on, it is added, "the Elephant, we find, has the powers of our Queen, as we are pleased to call the minister or general of the Persians." Now it so happens that the expression used in the original admits of no doubt as to the Elephant's move. It is the adverb chatushṭayam which simply means in the four cardinal directions—i.e., east, west, south, and north. Had the author intended to indicate the power of our Queen, he would have used the expression sarvatah—i.e., in all directions, which term he applies to the move of the King, a few lines before. The Elephant, then, in the game of Chaturanga, had precisely the move of our Rook; and we may add, once for all, that the present move of our Queen is not, generally speaking, of older date than three and a half centuries back.

General Directions for Play.


Let each player preserve his own forces with excessive care, and remember that the King is the most important of all. O Prince, from inattention to the humbler forces, the King himself may fall into disaster. The Ship (from a central position) commands only four squares, but the Horse commands eight; therefore, the Horse bears the higher value.1 The Pawns and the Ship assail the foe without subjecting themselves to capture; the King, the Elephant and the Horse slay the foe without subjecting themselves to destruction. O Prince, never let a player place his Elephant in front (en prise) of a hostile Elephant ; if any man of sense should do so, he will be deemed guilty of imprudence. Only in those cases where there is no other resource should a player place one Elephant en prise of another; such is the decree of the sage Gotama.3 Should

1 We shall afterwards see, when treating of the Shatranj, or medieval game of Chess, that the powers and value of the Rook, Knight and Bishop, which remained the same as in the ancient Chaturanga, were to one another, respectively, in the following proportion. The Pawn was reckoned one, as the unit of measure; then the Rook counted six; the Knight four, and the Bishop two. In the Chaturanga however, the value of the Bishop may have been slightly modified owing to the probable occurrence of the peculiar situation of the four Bishops called Vrihannaukā of which more hereafter.

2 The text of this stanza is, at first sight, a little puzzling, if not absolutely unintelligible. I take the author's meaning to be, that the Ships and Pawns mutually capture each other, but are not allowed to capture a superior piece. The King, Elephant and Knight, however, being of higher rank, are allowed certain special privileges: viz., the King can take any piece whatever belonging to his two adversaries; but he is not himself liable to be taken, except by a King, Elephant or Knight. In a similar manner, the Elephant could capture any of the adverse forces at pleasure, and was liable to be captured only by a King, Elephant or Knight. Lastly, the Knight could take any of his adversaries within his range, but was himself subject to be captured only by a Knight, Elephant or King.

3 Gotama, as Sir William Jones has already observed, was an eminent legislator and philosopher. That he should have condescended to record his decision on the merits of certain moves in Chess, is probably a license on the part of the poet, in order to confer the more honour on the game.

a player have it in his power to capture either of the hostile Elephants, it is preferable to slay that on the left hand. In order to attain those situations on the board, called the Singhāsana and the Chaturājī, the King is to be preserved at the expense of the whole army, the Elephant even included."

Peculiar Situations of the Pieces, conferring certain Privileges, &c.

"I will now explain to you, O Prince, the nature of certain situations, &c., that may occur in the course of play, viz., Singhāsana, Chaturāji, Nripakrishta Shatpada, Kākakashta Vrihannaukā, and Gadhāvati.

"Singhāsana.-When a King moves to the square of another King, O Yudhishthira, then he is said to have

1 Sir William Jones, in commenting on this passage, says, "the last rule is extremely obscure." Now, it so happens, that, instead of being obscure, it affords us a ray of light of no small importance. We learn from it that the adverse forces of each party were those on the right and left of the board; consequently those opposite, at the top, were the allied forces. Thus, the Green and Black were allies, as also the Red and Yellow. Indeed, we should have inferred as much, although the author nowhere expressly asserts it, from the nature of the game. Were we to suppose, for instance, that the Red and Green were allies, the brunt of the battle and almost the whole of the danger would fall chiefly, if not entirely, on the Green. The Red would merely have to move forward his Pawns, in comparative security, to the opposite side, through his ally's quarters; but, by making the opposite forces allies, the risk to be incurred is precisely the same for all parties. As to the mere propriety of slaying the Elephant, on the left hand, it is obvious enough. For example, Green has to pass his Pawns forward, under the protection of his pieces, on the left-hand side of the board, where the Yellow Elephant is directly in their way, and much more likely to give them a rough reception than the Elephant of the Red, which is on the right hand, and less able to gain their range, owing to his own Pawns, which stand in front of him. To this we may add, that the very approach of his own allies impedes the movements of the Red for attacking the Green when further advanced. Finally, the Red is obliged to keep a sharp look out on his right, from which quarter the hostile Black are threatening to take him in flank.

gained a Singhasana (i.e. a throne). When he gains a Singhasana by slaying either of the adverse Kings, he then wins a double stake, otherwise it shall be a single stake. When a King, O Prince, mounts the throne of his own ally, then also he gains a Singhasana, and thenceforth he commands the allied forces along with his own.1

"2. Chaturāji.—When a player, after having attained possession of his ally's throne, succeeds in capturing the two adverse Kings, his own King still remaining on the board, then he is said to have gained the Chaturājī. When the Chaturājī is attained, on the part of a player, by the latter's King slaying the last of the hostile Kings, then he is entitled to a twofold stake, otherwise it shall be a single stake. O Prince, when, in the game of Chaturanga, a king slays the last of the two adverse Kings on his own square, then he is entitled to a fourfold stake and when thus a Singhasana and a Chaturāji occur both at the same time, then, O Prince, it shall be deemed only a Chaturājī, but not the Singhāsana likewise.

"3. Nripakrishta.-When a player has got the two adverse Kings into his possession, his own King still remaining on the board, then, should his allied King have been previously captured by the adverse forces, he has the right of reclaiming his ally without any ransom, which procedure is called Nripakrishța; but, so long as th two adverse Kings are not in his possession, the captured ally is to be deemed defunct, or hors du combat. An allied King may also be ransomed or exchanged for one of the adverse Kings; but this is entirely at the option of the last player, who may either claim the exchange, or consider both Kings defunct.

1 Hence it must have occasionally happened, that only one player on each side remained, to conduct the whole allied forces, and this result very naturally gave rise to the mediæval game of Shatranj, of which more hereafter.

"4. Shatpada.-When either of the two middle Pawns has reached the opposite end of the board, he is then distinguished with the title of Shaṭpada,1 and assumes the power of that piece (Rook or Knight,) whose square he may have attained; a Pawn having reached the corner square, or that of the King, is not entitled to the rank of Shatpada. O son of Pandu, the player who is still in possession of three Pawns is not entitled to a Shaṭpada ; so it has been decreed by Gotama.

"5. Kākakāshta.-When, towards the end of a game, a King remains alone, after all his forces have been captured, such a situation is called Kākakāshṭa; and the King, thus bereaved, according to the decision of all the Rakshasas, is neither entitled to victory, nor liable to defeat.


"6. Vrihannauka.-When three Ships happen to be in contiguous squares, and the fourth Ship can be played into the remaining contiguous square, the situation is called Vrihannaukā; and the last player takes possession of all the others.3

"7. Gadhāvati.-When, in course of the game, a player is left with only the Ship and a single Pawn, the

1 The term shaṭpada denotes six steps, and corresponds with what we commonly call queening a Pawn. In the Chaturanga, as stated above, a Pawn could only (with one exception) become a Knight or a Rook; in the Shatranj, as we shall see hereafter, a pawn on reaching the extremity of the board, was compelled to become a farzin, or "counsellor," and nothing else.

2 The Rakshasas literally signify demons or giants; but the term was applied to the inhabitants of Lankā, or ancient Ceylon, probably from the gallant and desperate defence they offered against their northern invaders under Rāma, the King of Ayodhya, the Oude of our day. It is further evident from this stanza that the situation called Kākakāshṭa was equivalent to what we call a drawn game: though in the Shatranj as we shall hereafter see, the party so reduced was considered as defeated.

3 The curious situation called Vrihannaukā, or "C concourse of the ships," can occur only in five particular portions of the board, viz., in the four central squares, and also within a square of each of the four corners, as will appear from the diagram in the following page.

« PreviousContinue »