Culture of Sedentary Play in India – The Space Context

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Playing of sedentary games with dice and playing board games have had a major role in the Indian culture since at least 3000 BCE. This is shown by archaeological sites and early literary references in the Rig-Veda, Mahabharata and other texts. Some of these games have survived in the form of boards, game pieces, dice and cards. Apart from actual sets, the traces of board games can also be found in Hindu rock cut temples. These sculptures and paintings appear across the medieval period. The list is exhaustive. The game play also finds its presence on numerous temple floorings, carved or inscribed. Why would somebody carve these board games on these spaces? Interestingly, throughout history, some board games have increased its popularity, and some have disappeared from artistic expressional record. How did one board game overtake the other in terms of its popularity in the later phases of history? What made these games socially acceptable and popular? Where were these games played? What was the space context? The paintings dominantly show royal houses, court rooms as spaces. Were there special pavilions used for game playing by Indian royals? In India board games were traditionally played at ground level. With growing European influence in the subcontinent in the 18th century, local elites adopted the western custom of elevated furniture for board games. Did this change the space context?

The paper thus tries to evolve parameters to analyze the impact of board games on spaces and would throw light on the “space context” with reference to Indian board games tracing it to the contemporary time.

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