Chaupar – The Big Daddy of Ludo
Chaupar has always been in the top few prehistoric games of India that people still recall, and in many instances, people play. It is a game of dice played on a board made of two cotton or woollen strips crossing each other at right angles, making a plus sign. Historians believe that Chaupar originated in India around the 4th century A.D. It travelled to England in the 1860s and then further into Europe. In the late 1890s, the English developed a simpler form called Ludo, primarily designed for and played by children. So in a way, chaupar can be regarded as the predecessor of modern day Ludo.
Chaupar is also believed to be the same game that the Kauravas and the Pandavas had played in the epic of Mahabharata but the first official account of such a game being played appears in the 16th century where historian Abul Fazal remarks “From times of old, the people of Hindustan have been fond of this game”, adding no further comments regarding the same. Chaupar was a celebrated gambling sport in Mogul Emperor Akbar’s court in Fatehpur Sikri, where one can see a life-size depiction of the Chaupar spread. It is said that the emperor himself was an addict and used to play with harem girls dressed in various colours, as the pawns.
In the game, the pieces are moved on the board according to throw of the dice with the aim to enter ‘home’ on the board. The dice are called ‘Paasa’ and the pieces, ‘Saari’. ‘Paasa Dhaal’ means ‘throw the dice’. The Pieces have to mature or become ‘Pakka or Pakki’ before they can enter home. Until they mature they remain ‘raw’ i.e. ‘Kacha or Kachchi’. Another requirement is that an exact throw of the dice is required at the final stage for the concerned piece to enter home. The pieces that are captured by the ‘enemy’ have to start all over again.
It is interesting to note that the game is played with long cuboidal die (tabular or stick-like), which were common in South and Southeast Asia back in the days, unlike the cubical die popular in Europe and America. Three such die were used in the game.
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