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This colourful group of seven variously stained ivory pachisi or chaupar counters (narads) was produced in northern India. Each piece of domed form has a Mughal-esque architectural quality.
The counters were used for playing pachisi or chaupar but this type of game has many local names in India.
Pachisi in Hindi means ‘twenty-five’ which is the highest score that can be achieved by one throw of the dice. Chaupar reflects the four arms of the usual playing board or cloth. The game has a long history in India. Eighteenth century miniature paintings show various maharajas and their courtiers playing the game, although the history of the game in India stretches back well over a thousand years. For much of this time, the game was associated with courtly and aristocratic circles.
The game is played on a board that has four arms. The aim of the game is to start with the pieces on the outer part of each arm. Each player takes turns to throw dice and move his pieces towards the middle accordingly. The difficulty comes in the last few steps when the number thrown on the dice must match exactly the number of squares left before the middle is reached, with the winner being the first player to get all of his pieces into the centre at once.
Similar examples are illustrated in Freeman Fahid (2018, p. 274) and Topsfield (2006, p. 70).
The pieces here have clear age and have clearly been extensively used. They are sculptural and attractive, and are an interesting part of India’s social history.
Freeman Fahid, D., Chess and Other Games Pieces from Islamic Lands, Thames & Hudson, 2018.
Topsfield, A., (ed.), The Art of Play: Board and Card Games of India, Marg Publications, 2006.