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KRETA2017 - The 'Zatrikion' - Draughtboard

KRETA2017 - The 'Zatrikion' - Draughtboard
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For many years, there have been traditions that Chess has a far greater symbolic significance than a mere pastime might at first appear to have. Among other things, it has been connected with mental training, military strategy, complex mathematics, divination, astronomy and astrology.
Over the years, various theories and opinions have been ventured on the origin and meaning of Chess. In his monumental work 'Science and Civilization in China', Joseph Needham states that a quasi-astrological technique evolved in China between the first and sixth centuries CE for determining the state of balance or imbalance between the complementary
qualities of *Yin* and *Yang*. Needham believes that this divinatory technique was adopted by military diviners, perhaps forming the basis of the board game known as *Chaturanga*.

However, the name of this game is not Chinese, but comes from the Sanskrit, meaning 'quadripartite'. This term was used to describe the Indian army which had four elements, reflecting the fourfold division of the world and its microcosm, society. Before the invasion of India by the army of Alexander the Great in 326 BCE, the Indian army was composed of four different branches.... In addition to these four branches of troops, there were the king (the *rajah*), and his counsellor, (the *mantri*). The troops
consisted of elephants (*gaja*), horses (*asva), chariots (*ratha*), and pawns (*pedati*). The failure of chariot warfare against the Greek armies of Alexander ... led the Indians to abandon that form of warfare shortly afterwards. As *Chaturanga* games had these divisions, it would date the game to before Alexander's incursion, several centuries before the Chinese astrological board divination.

Some Chess historians have connected the game with the ancient Chinese pastime of *Siang k'i*. The name of this game is translated usually as The Astronomical Game or The Figure Game. Whether or not it was a forerunner of Chess, *Siang k'i* has strong connections with divination, for there is a close affinity between the layout of the gameboard and ancient Chinese diviner's boards which were the forerunners of the *luopan*, the magnetic compass used today in *Feng Shui*, the Chinese art of placement [geomancy]. Unlike Chess, this game was played with the aid of dice.

The board on which Chaturanga was played was that of *Ashtapada*, the eight by eight (64 squares) grid of a version of race game which, like modern Ludo, was played with dice. Early references to the game may therefore refer to any game played on the *Ashtapada* board, either the actual game, or Chaturanga. Ancient references to board games were
often made by commentators who had little or no knowledge of the actual mode of play of the games. This is a problem researchers of old games often encounter, and can be seen in many medieval representations of Chess, where it is rare to find a board depicted which has the correct eight by eight chequers.

*Ashtapada* is one of a group of race games played on a square board, whose movements have some connection with the layout of traditional unicursal labyrinths. These games include *Thayyam*, played on a five by five (25 squares) board; *Ashta-Kaste*, seven by seven (49); *Ashtapada*, eight by eight (64); and *Saturankam*, nine by nine (81). These grides all have mystical connections with magic squares, being randomized by the use of dice. The cosmologist C.P.S. Menon believed that the chequered playing board came from the custom of representing
the year-cycle and its subdivisions in a square format [calendar].
This format survived in European horoscopes into the eighteenth
century, and is still employed in laying out the figures in divinatory geomancy. The children's game of Fortune Telling, played today in Britain [I played this game as a child], involves a paper square folded on the same pattern. Allied symbolism exists in the square cosmographic mosaic pavements of medieval Europe, such as those at Xanten in Germany
and at Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in England. These are overt symbols of the structure of the world, with the four directions, elements, the humours laid out in corresponding geometrical patterns and coloured stones. Menon argued that the Chess board originated as a symbolic panisphere upon which the motion of the seven planets of traditional astronomy were represented by corresponding pieces located in appropriate correspondences. He speculated that the Knight's
move in chess may have originated in the movement of the heavenly bodies in their orbits 'round the corner' of the square planisphere. The similar jumping moves of the *fil*, forerunner of the Chess bishop, and other pieces in unorthodox Chess games, would have the same origin and meaning.

According to an old Indian legen, which recurs in Persian and Arabian literature, the game of Chess, or at least its forerunner, *Chaturanga*, was invented by one man, Sissa, a Brahman at the court of King Balhait. The king ordered the sage to devise a game which would display the usefulness of personal judgement, anticipation and knowledge, as opposed to fatalism which was implicit in games of chance using dice.
Sissa used the board of the old game *Ashtapada*, and on it, he placed pieces representing the four branches of the Indian army, led by the king and his counsellor. Sissa chose battle as the prototype for the game because war displayed all of the qualities that Balhait had displayed.
Date: 2017-11-02 17:13:49

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