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Friday, September 16, 2016

A Game of Ancient India : Pachisi



Anyone else grow up playing Parcheesi?  Or Ludo?  Possibly the popular game Sorry!?

Turns out, every one of those games (and possibly a few more) are based on an ancient game played in India.  The original game was called Pachisi, a Sanskrit word for "Twenty-Five" which is the highest amount of points possibly to throw.

Game boards in India today are most often made from embroidered fabric, and the pawns are shaped like little beehives and colored red, yellow, black and green.


Word has it, an ancient Indian Emperor enjoyed playing the game so much, he converted a room in his palace into a large game board and used slave girls as pawns.  And the popularity hasn't stopped.  In researching, I discovered pictures of modern Indian folks playing the game with a board simply drawn on the ground with chalk.


My son is just 6 years old, and has a penchant for games.  Because of the interest there, I decided to research ancient board games.  Anytime you pull a child's interest into a time period, of course you succeed in making that time period all the more interesting and inviting.  So, I figured I should make a Pachisi Game Board so we could learn the game and share it with others who might want to learn, too.  So, I did and here it is:

This is an earlier version:  I had to modify the castle squares slightly in the downloadable game).

I created the sides of the cross, and the center square (called the Charkoni), using the traditional colors that can be printed out on three separate sheets of paper, then laminate, and then affixed together.


 For the Charkoni (above), I added some pretty pictures of an elephant, a lotus flower, a peacock feather and a tiger.  These weren't necessary, but those are images I think of when I think of the beautiful land of India, and I wanted to make the game board pretty.




To make our pawns, I used little glass balls from Dollar Tree, with a bead glued onto the top.  I painted the base of the glass ball with the green color for this pawn (and used red, yellow and black for the others)  Then, we tipped that bead off with a bead separator.  They turned out so neat.  Make sure you use a good glue that can secure glass to glass.


Next, we needed dice.  In ancient times, apparently they used 6 cowrie shells.  When they tossed the shells, some would fall open side up, and the "open-side-up" shells were counted to discover how many places you could move.  At first, we simply used white and colored lego pieces.  You can see our make-shift dice off on the left in this photo above.  That worked (as long as the pieces were exactly the same size and shape, like the flat 4 x 1's we used), but we decided to try something more organic like the cowrie shells would have been. 


Here's what we settled on:  Dried Lima beans, with one side painted with finger nail polish.  This worked great.

There are multiple versions of rules out there for Pachisi.  You could certainly research it on your own.  To be honest, when I first had the idea of playing Pachisi for our history, I just wanted to buy the board game "Parcheesi", which is the version I grew up with.  But then I got curious, and just wanted to know if it was all that different from the real thing.  (Not too much, for those who also are wondering, but different enough that I'm glad I made our own).



I believe there was some sort of spiritual meaning at one point in the Charkoni, which is basically the entry point and ending spot for the pawns.  But, you don't really need all that information if you're just wanting to have fun playing an Ancient Game.


And boy, did my kid have fun.  First we played with only two colors of the game.  And then, we tried it out using all four (he had black and yellow and I played with red and green) for this is the suggested game play with two players.


Then, he begged my husband and I for another game, and that time he beat both of us (Something to do with us being so busy capturing each other's pawns, that we let our six year old steal the game).


Since we have discovered that it is an easy enough game for a six year old to play, I've made a black and white version for an easier copy so that classroom teachers can have a game board to introduce their students to, as well.



Our variant of the Pachisi rules and the explanation for how to score the dice are included in this packet.  I also include a material list and explanation for how we made our pawns and dice, though you could probably figure that out on your own and you certainly don't need to be so fancy.

We're keeping our product inexpensive, because the whole point is to  have fun, just like those ancient Indians did.   Here it is newly released in our store:  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Game-of-Ancient-India-Pachisi-2785355



If you have additional ideas for how to make pawns or dice, it would be awesome if you would share those in the comments!   

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