Page images

A Ship or Boat is substituted,' we see, in this complex game for the Rath, or armed Chariot, which the Bengalese pronounce Roth, and which the Persians changed into Rukh, whence came the Rook of some European nations; as the Vierge and Fol of the French are supposed to be corruptions of Ferz and Fil, the Prime Minister and Elephant of the Persians and Arabs. It were in vain to seek an etymology of the word Rook in the modern Persian language; for, in all the passages extracted from Firdausī and Jārī, where Rukh (d) is conceived to mean a hero or a fabulous bird, it signifies, I believe, no more than a cheek or a face; as in the following description of a procession in Egypt :- "When a thousand youths, like cypresses, box-trees, and firs, with locks as fragrant, cheeks as fair, and bosoms as delicate as lilies of the valley, were marching gracefully along, thou wouldst have said that the new spring was turning his face (not as Hyde translates the words, carried on Rukhs2) from station to station." And as to the battle of the Duwazdeh Rukh, which D'Herbelot supposes to mean douze preux chevaliers, I am strongly inclined to think that the phrase only signifies a combat of twelve persons face to face, or six on a side.


I cannot agree with my friend Radhakant, that a Ship is properly introduced3 in this imaginary warfare instead of a Chariot, in which the old Indian warriors constantly fought; for though the King might be supposed to sit in a car, so that the four angas would be complete, and

1 Sir William falls into a mistake here, owing to his "poetic" idea that the Persian game was the original. The Chariot is more recently substituted for the Ship, not the Ship for the Chariot.

2 No doubt Hyde's translation is absurd enough.

3 I have already shown (in Chap. II.) that there is no impropriety in introducing the Ship or Boat in a representation of ancient Indian warfare. Radhakant, like me, states the fact as he finds it, and probably defended its propriety somewhat as I do.


though it may often be necessary in a real campaign to pass rivers or lakes, yet no river is marked on the Indian, as it is on the Chinese,' Chess-board; and the intermixture of Ships with Horses, Elephants, and Infantry embattled on a plain, is an absurdity not to be defended. The use of dice may, perhaps, be justified in a representation of war, in which fortune has unquestionably a great share; but it seems to exclude Chess from the rank which has been assigned to it among the sciences, and to give the game before us the appearance of Whist, except that pieces are used only, instead of cards, which are held concealed: nevertheless, we find that the moves in the game described by Vyasa, were to a certain degree regulated by chance; for he proceeds to tell his royal pupil, that, "if cinque be thrown, the King or a Pawn must be moved; if quatre, the Elephant; if trois, the Horse; and if deux, the Boat."

[ocr errors]

He then proceeds to the moves: "The King passes freely on all sides, but over one square only, and with the same limitation the Pawn moves, but he advances straight forward, and kills his enemy through an angle; the Elephant marches in all directions, as far as his driver pleases; the Horse runs obliquely, traversing three squares; and the Ship goes over two squares diagonally." The Elephant, we find, has the powers of our Queen, (e) as we are pleased to call the Minister, or General, of the Persians; and the Ship has the motion of the piece to which we give the unaccountable appellation of Bishop; but with a restriction which must greatly lessen his value.

The bard next exhibits a few general rules and super

1 And yet, as we have seen in our last chapter, the Chinese, strange to say, have neither Ship nor Boat on their board, although they have got what is imagined to be a River.


ficial directions for the conduct of the game: Pawns and the Ship both kill and may be voluntarily killed; while the King, the Elephant, and the Horse may slay the foe, but cannot expose themselves to be slain.1 Let each Let each player preserve his own forces with extreme care, securing his King above all, and not sacrificing a superior to keep an inferior piece." Here the commentator 2 on the Purana observes, that the Horse, who has the choice of eight moves from any central position, must be preferred to the Ship, who has only the choice of four; but this argument would not have equal weight in the common game, where the Bishop and Tower command a whole line, and where a Knight is always of less value than a Tower in action, or a Bishop of that side on which the attack is begun.

"It is by the overbearing power of the Elephant that the King fights boldly; let the whole army, therefore, be abandoned, in order to secure the Elephant (f): the King must never place one Elephant before another, according to the rule of Gotama, unless he be compelled for want of room, for he would thus commit a dangerous fault; and, if he can slay one of two hostile Elephants, he must destroy that on his left hand." The last rule is extremely obscure; 3 but, as Gotama was an illustrious lawyer and philosopher, he would not have condescended to leave directions for the game of Chaturanga, if it

1 This sentence is evidently wrong if taken in a literal sense. I have endeavoured to give the author's meaning in p. 20, note 2. There is no doubt whatever that every one of the pieces, the King himself not excepted, was liable to be captured; as may be clearly gathered from the very next sentence.

2 What is here attributed to the commentator is really part of the text, as we know from its being in the same kind of metre with the rest of the description. It is merely an illustration of what is meant by a superior, and what by an inferior piece.

3 There is no obscurity here, vide note, p. 21. The apparent difficulty which presents itself to Sir William and the Brahman arises from their mistaken notions of the moves and power of the Elephant.

had not been held in great estimation by the ancient sages of India.


All that remains of the passage, which was copied1 for me by Rādhakant and explained by him, relates to the several modes in which a partial success or complete victory may be obtained by any one of the four players; for we shall see that, as if a dispute had arisen between two allies, one of the Kings may assume the command of all the forces, and aim at separate conquest. First, When any one King has placed himself on the square of another King, which advantage is called Singhasana, or the throne, he wins a stake, which is doubled, if he kills the adverse monarch when he seizes his place; and, if he can seat himself on the throne of his ally, he takes the command of the whole army." Secondly, "If he can occupy successively the thrones of all the three princes, he obtains the victory, which is named Chaturājī; and the stake is doubled if he kills 2 the last of the three just before he takes possession of his throne; but if he kills him on his throne, the stake is quadrupled." Thus, as the commentator remarks, in a real warfare, a King may be considered as victorious when he seizes the metropolis of his adversary; but if he can destroy his foe, he displays greater heroism, and relieves his people from any further solicitude.

[ocr errors]

"Both in gaining the Singhāsana and the Chaturājī,' says Vyasa, "the King must be supported by the Elephants, or all the forces united." (g) Thirdly, "When one player has his own King on the board, but the King

We see by this expression that Sir William Jones had merely the perusal of an extract, "copied" from the Bhavishya Purāna by his friend the Brāhman, who appears to have been no great Chess player, or at least to have been practically unacquainted with the ancient game of Chaturanga.

2 This shews clearly that the Kings "did kill" each other, whenever fate, (alias the dice), permitted.

of his partner has been taken, he may replace his captive ally, if he can seize both the adverse Kings; or, if he cannot effect their capture, he may exchange his King for one of them, against the general rule, and thus redeem the allied prince, who will supply his place." This advantage has the name of Nripakrishța, or recovered by the King; and the Naukākrishta seems to be analogous to it, but confined to the case of ships. Fourthly, "If a Pawn can march to any square on the opposite extremity of the board, except that of the King or that of the Ship, he assumes whatever power belonged to that square; and this promotion is called Shatpada, or the six strides."


Here we find the rule, with a singular exception, concerning the advancement of the Pawns, (h) which often occasions a most interesting struggle at our common Chess, and which has furnished the poets and moralists of Arabia and Persia with many lively reflections on human life. It appears that this privilege of Shaṭpada was not allowable, in the opinion of Gotama, when a player had three Pawns on the board; but, when only one Pawn and one Ship remained, the Pawn might advance even to the square of a King or a Ship, and assume the power of either. Fifthly, "According to the Rākshasas, or giants (that is, the people of Lanka, where the game was invented) there could be neither victory nor defeat if a King were left on the plain without force: a situation which they named Kakakashṭha." Sixthly, "If three Ships happen to meet, and the fourth can be brought up to them in the remaining angle, this has the name of Vrihannaukā, and the player of the fourth seizes all the others."

1 The reason, in the latter case, is obvious enough, the original King is by this time captured.

« PreviousContinue »