'Desi' games you can play

CRAFTS REVIVAL

'Desi' games you can play

A chess board that gives one the feeling that one is looking at a real battlefield, with an array of soldiers, the cavalry et al. The king lords over the scene, while his minister looks on. If you are used to seeing chess boards with black and white pawns, here’s one with a difference.

We are talking about exhibition that was organised by Ramsons Kala Pratishtana at Mysore’s Nazarbad. The exhibition was organised to create awareness and arouse interest among youngsters about traditional desi games — board games that keep one’s mind sharp and healthy. What’s more, care was taken to ensure that these desi games were crafted in the most artistic manner.

Creating awareness

The exhibition, called ‘Kreeda Kaushalya’, was not started with commercial gains in mind. So, what triggered the idea of starting such a game? When R G Singh, the secretary of Ramsons, decided to buy desi board games for the children in his family, he couldn’t find any, in spite of scouring the market for them. This was in 2007, and ever since, he has been striving towards bringing back traditional games into circulation. Joining hands with him were a doctor, Dilipkumar, and architect, Raghu Dharmendra.

“These games were easily available when we were young. Any festival or gathering would have us taking out our board games. But slowly, they started disappearing from our homes. Later we got them done from an artist we knew. Soon, our neighbours started taking interest and such games are gaining popularity again,” recalls Raghu Dharmendra. This project did not happen easily, though. The Ramsons team started touring neighbouring states to meet artisans and gather information about these games.                    

They got these games done by craftspersons from Etikoppa, Shri kalahasti, Benaras and Channapatna.

An exhibition is held once every two years. “There is an entire artisans’ community that is behind our efforts. By keeping desi games alive, we are also ensuring that the livelihoods of these artisans are safeguarded,” explains Dilipkumar. He also points out that there is a huge demand for games such as çhowkabara, chess and channemane.

As many as 35 games that were hitherto forgotten drew attention at the exhibition.

Contribution of Mysore’s royalty

Among the many styles of chess, the knights magic square is one of the toughest games. In the 19th century, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore was only one of the three people who could play this game successfully.

“Mummadi’s contribution to the development of board games has been immense. The ninth volume in his work, ‘Shri Tatvanidhi’, called ‘Kauthuka Nidhi’ has excellent explanations about many conventional board games. There are illustrations by expert artists too alongside the instructions,” explains Raghu Dharmendra. Ramsons aims to hold an international board games events in Mysore, the land of Mummadi.

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