Times of India Article on Reviving Gyan Chaupar and Golok Dham

No comments
It was a whim that I pursued about finding storytelling elements in ancient games - just to prove that the point I was making in my book was vindicated by aeons of human history. It was Jesper Juul who put me on to it - he asked me at a conference (where I was presenting on Karma in videogames) what ancient Indian games and game theory had to say about play cultures. Jesper knew about the khel / lila concepts and I wasn't surprised given the thorough scholar that he is. However, what he set me thinking about was Pacheesi or Chaupar and Chaturanga. Now, as many know, I'm a Deleuzian at heart and although my attempts to connect Deleuze with Indian philosophy have been resisted by some, I couldn't help connecting the Deleuzian notion of the 'Divine Game' (see Difference and Repetition) to Indian philosophy. Somewhere from my childhood, I remembered tales of Shiva and Parvati playing a divine game of dice.  As I was writing my book (Videogames and Storytelling to be published by Palgrave Macmillan this year), I thought I simply had to find out. With my research, I stumbled on Gyan Chaupar. I also found scholars who had already worked on it. Typically, videogame studies does not seem to have connected with them.

Gyan Chaupar board in the National Museum, New Delhi

My friend, Subhayu Mazumder, of Times of India said he liked the idea. And off I went to do more research. The first fruits of this has appeared in an article in ToI and I have plans to do more with this. Here's an excerpt of the article:

Imagine being told that whatever happens in your life is the result of a game that you have been playing. This is not the plot of a Hollywood thriller but rather the now much-neglected wisdom of ancient India. As you try to contain your incredulity, what if I tell you that this is no rare artefact that has been unearthed by archaeologists but that you probably even have it at home as you read this.  The game being referred to here is Snakes and Ladders, commonly translated as ‘Shap Ludo’ or Snake-Ludo in Bengali. Unknown to many of us, Snakes and Ladders is not a game that Indians learnt from the West; in fact, it is quite the other way round. Known variously as Gyan Chaupar, Gyan Bazi or Moksha Pat, the game with snakes and stairs (rather than ladders) was popular all over ancient India and even survives in various forms in Nepal and Tibet. Exported into England first in 1892, this complex and intricate game of moral teaching ended up as a childishly simple racing game that removed the element of learning and introduced competition. More research into this game revealed articles by a handful of scholars from the United Kingdom and Scandinavia and references to game-boards scattered across the world, only a few of them in different parts of India. Even Reverend Lal Behari De’s 1851 article on Bengali games and pastimes had nothing to say about games such as Gyan Chaupar. Strangely though, there is now much more hope for the revival of this ancient Indian tradition of play than one could ever expect and the story begins with an industrialist in Calcutta who quite accidentally stumbled upon this lost gem and since then, has been working non-stop to bring back Gyan Chaupar to our homes and our minds. 

Aman Gopal Sureka, one of the city’s information technology entrepreneurs, came upon Gyan Chaupar while looking for interesting Diwali gifts for his clients. In the process, he fell in love with the game and this has taken him around the world in his quest for Gyan Chaupar. 

For the rest of the article, click here: http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31812...

No comments :

Post a Comment