University of Heidelberg
South Asia Institute

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17th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies
Heidelberg, September 9 - 14, 2002

Panel 29 papers

In-Door Games in Karnataka’s Heritage - Deciption of Chess and Board Games in Mural Paintings of the Colonial Period

Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery, popularly known, as Jaganmohana Palace, constructed in 1861, is one of the most attractive palaces in the city of Mysore. This palace has number of paintings giving genealogy of the Mysore kings and other palace matters. The letter Press given in these as well as in some of the portrait deserves to be copied out and preserved or printed. Some of the games painted on the walls, such as Devisayujyam and Srikantasayujyam, which are calculated to direct the thoughts of the players heavenward are full of interest.

Many visitors to the palace in Mysore skip the last room on the topmost floor and if they visit, they will be amazed to see a large number of multi colored chess boards (of 6x6, 8x8, 10x10 or 12x12squre boards) painted on the walls. Many of these paintings present pleasing patterns to the eye or show the figure of some animal or geometrical shapes inscribed in them. A closer scrutiny reveals that these numbers appear to be written randomly to cover all the cells included in the figure, no number appearing in the cells not covered by the figures. The legends by the side of these chessboards indicate that the figures represent akhanda asvagati cakra.

The Raja of Mysore has invented many ingenious combinations of the movements of horse. Indeed it would be curious to see a collection of knight's tours in the form of mural paintings and Krishnaraja wodeyar is pre-eminent for such discoveries. My paper along with illustrations will serve as examples of the great variety of figures as mural Painting.

Krishna Raja Wodeyar III (1794-1868 AD) was a multifaceted personality, being not only a patron of scholars and artists, who adorned his court, but himself a scholar of many languages. He was a great lover of horses and chess and board games. This interest prompted him to collect information and preserve it as part of lengthy, illustrated encyclopedias. In addition he was responsible for the development of new games, or in some cases, for enterprising new developments of old games. The surviving materials (manuscripts, paintings, collection of boards and game pieces) are witness to his interest for the game. He brought out a color litho print of an abridged version of his own chaturanga chamatkrita chakra manjari in six languages (Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Sanskrit, Persian) in 1858 AD. This work details the construction of akhanda gati chakra by specifying the coordinates of the consecutive knight's moves on the akhanda gati chakra board so as to generate schematic figures of various types.



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