Oxford 2005 Colloquium

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Board Game Studies Colloquium VIII


Maria Schetelich

THE MAD KING'S GAME or The Rakshasa Way of Playing Chess

Sanskrit texts on the Indian games of chess (caturanga) at times refer to peculiar or 'incorrect' playing, i.e. not following the prescribed rules and sometimes call these deviations 'the Asura or Rakshasa way of playing'. In Indian mythology Asuras or Rakshasas are the demons or anti-gods who are a constant source of trouble to the gods because of their rashness and their insatiable hunger for fighting. It might well be that one of the variants of Indian chess - 'The Mad King's Game', in which a king without his army stands up against his fully equipped adversary - reflects this image of the Asuras or Rakshasas.

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