Annual summer vacations in my grandparentsí home, in Gobichettipalayam, a small town in Tamil Nadu, to which my paternal kannadiga ancestors had migrated was a world, completely apart, from our normal convent-school-centered childhood. Walking barefoot in the theruvus, streets, swimming in the vaykal, canal, making cow-dung cakes and playing traditional games, were new experiences. In contrast to hockey, basketball and seven tiles, the games we were accustomed to, we learnt the nuances of eidu kallinnna atta (five stones) kunte bille ( hopscotch) and board games like alugulimanne (also known as pallanguli in Tamil). My sister and I counted tamarind seeds in the seven pits of a double rowed, beautifully carved, folding wooden board. Substituting for the seeds, were sometimes, cowrie shells or orange colored annatto seeds. Visits to relatives in Nanjangud and Bangalore introduced us to other traditional board games, like huli kuriatta (tigers and goats) and chowkabara, a race game. These were and are, in the predominantly agrarian societies of India, leisure pastimes, played by young and old.
World over, board games were as significant as trade and religion, for transmitting cultural forms and ideas. As objects of art, they were treasured possessions and status symbols, often finely crafted and elaborately decorated to reflect the aspirations of their owners.
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