Games and sports have been an important aspect in the social fiber of Indian civilizations over the centuries. Excavations and archaeological findings confirm this. Evidences prove that different sporting activities were taken up by both men and women. Traditional Indian indoor games of different kinds and many outdoor games have similarities with modern sporting events.
Across the country several traditional games have been identified. Interestingly indoor games formed the popular recreation of monarchs and most indoor games are on the theme of war. Most of these ancient games are no longer played in the country, while some have become world renowned like the game of chess.
Board games, card games and games using dice have been played in India for ages. Archaeological findings show that during earlier times dice were made from seeds and nuts and were sometimes in oblong shape.
A board game called Chaturanga which was played in different forms in India resembles chess and it is widely presumed that chess originated in India. Chaturanga is derived from two Sanskrit words and means ‘four parts’. Elephants, horses, chariots and soldiers which made up the army of ancient India formed the parts of the game. This game was played on a checked board and its similarities with the modern day chess cannot be denied.
Another interesting board game played in South India is called pallanguli. This game is still played in traditional areas. The board used to play pallanguli has small chambers in which coins are dropped. Sea shells and tamarind seeds are used as coins and the game is generally played by two persons.
Card games have also been famous in India and were mostly played in royal courts by nobility and regal families. From historic records it is known that the Moghul rulers of India played a different version of card games. Mostly cards used in these games were made in sets of 12 and games were based on the theme of war. Different materials were used to make these cards like cloth, ivory and precious metals. Cards were not all the same shape too. Circular, oval and rectangular cards hand painted with exotic figures were stored in wooden boxes.
Even now Indians have a keen interest in sports and games to spend leisure hours. Though most Indians play modern games in digital versions, traditional games are still the chief form of entertainment in backward areas. To encourage youngsters to play traditional Indian games, certain toy manufacturers have re constructed ancient Indian board games which are available for sale in Indian toy stores.