Chaturanga is an Indian game credited with giving birth to many different games, most notably chess. The true rules of the original game are subject to debate with some saying it was four player game and others saying it included dice, but many of the rules are the same as modern day chess. The word Chaturanga is a Sanskrit word referring to four divisions of an Indian army- elephants, cavalry, chariots, and infantry. . . from which comes four types of pieces in that game.

Chaturanga spread to China, Korea, and Japan. It also appeared in Persia after the Islamic conquest (638-651). Chaturanga continued to spread until it reached Southern Europe in the early 15th century and some of the old Chaturanga rules were modified, and some were added such as castling, the 2 square pawn advance, and then en passant. The most important change was the allowance of a pawn to become a queen.

The rules of Chaturanga:

Note: This writeup only attempts to list the rules for one variant of Chaturanga. As the above writeup says

Chaturanga, like International Chess has 32 peices, 16 for each side and is played on a 64 square board. Unlike Xiangqi, the peices are placed inside the squares (again like International Chess). The peices are exactly the same as International Chess, except for the fact that the Bishop is known as the Elephant and the Queen as the Minister. The peices move very similarly to International Chess:

King The King is like the International Chess King -- if he's checkmated, you lose. He moves just like the modern version, except that once in the game he is allowed to move as a Knight (i.e. one space in one direction and two along a perpendicular)

Minister The counsellor can move one space in any diagonal direction.

Elephant Jumps over one square in the diagonal direction.

Horse Moves as in International Chess.

Chariot Ditto.

Infantryman (Pawn) As in International Chess, except that it does not have some capabilities that the Europeans gave to the pawn, i.e. two moves when starting and en passant (the origins of the two are related).

The neat thing about Chaturanga is that it can be played on a normal modern Chess board. There are, as mentioned above, other versions, some being played on a cross-shaped board and others using dice. (Indeed, the art of casting dice was practiced extensively in Ancient India -- it's said that some were so skilled that they could always control which face the dice would land on)

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