Pachisi- the Game Emperors Play

Do you want to feel like royalty, playing an ancient Indian Game?

A game for which emperor Akbar built a huge courtyard in his palace at Fatehpur Sikri to depict the squares of the board. Akbar is believed to have used women from his harem as game pieces.

Pachisi Courtyard at Fatehpur Sikri
Pachisi Courtyard at Fatehpur Sikri
Chaupad squares at Fatehpur Sikri
Chaupad squares at Fatehpur Sikri
Chaupad squares at Fatehpur Sikri in front of Panch mahal
Chaupad squares at Fatehpur Sikri

I have also seen the board carved on granite floors of ancient temples and monuments.

Yes, I am referring to Pachisi. The game that is also known as Dayakattam, Chokkattam, Chaupad, Chaupar etc. The Western versions of this game, go by many names like Parchisi, Ludo, The Game of India etc.

Now you can buy an authentic version of this game online at Amazon and Flipkart. The game board is made of hand embroidered cotton and comes with cowrie shells, wooden pieces, cotton pouch, instructions etc.

For Amazon click here.

For Flipkart click here.

Ludo made out of recycled elephant dung is available at www.golisodastore.com

Pachisi Indian Board game
Pachisi authentic Hand embroidered game board
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Taj – an optical illusion

View of Taj from Agra Fort
View of Taj from Agra Fort

This is the view of Diwan-e-Khas and the Taj Mahal from the Meena bazaar side in Agra Fort. To me somehow the Taj appeared to be bigger than what it looked from the Diwane Khas. Our guide confirmed that it is an illusion created by the clever architecture of the Taj.

I had the same feeling when I viewed the Taj from Mehtab Bagh across the Yamuna.

View of Taj from Mehtab Bagh
Northern View of Taj from Mehtab Bagh across the Yamuna.

Boatmen on the Yamuna

Boatmen in the Yamuna
Boatmen on the Yamuna

The scene behind the Taj Mahal on an early Monday morning.

Just a few yards from the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. A labour of love built about 500 years ago by the Emperor of India in memory of his favourite wife. Took 20,000 artisans 22 years to build. Attracts millions of visitors every year.

All these mean nothing to these poor boatmen for whom it is just another day at work.

 

Frugal resting place of a mighty emperor

Most of us know Aurangazeb as a tyrannical and bigoted emperor who tortured and killed his family members, suppressed non-Muslims,fought many unnecessary wars which drained the exchequer. He is also known as the one who paved the way for the decline of the Mughal Empire.

But how many of us know the ‘softer’ side of this emperor? I have read in my school history book that Aurangazeb used to stitch caps and transcribe by hand copies of the Koran to sell anonymously to earn money for his burial and tomb.

The remains of the mighty emperor who lorded over the sub-continent for about five decades lie in a modest tomb in a non-descript town of Khuldabad, about 30 kilometers from Aurangabad.

Aurangzeb died in Ahmednagar(1707 C.E.),  but he had a desire to be interred near the tomb of his Islamic guru, Sayyad Zainuddin Shirazi at Khuldabad.

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Entrance to the complex

Originally, his tomb was open and on all sides. Lord Curzon directed the then Nizam to put up marble panels all around. The top is still open to the sky.

A blind caretaker Sheikh Hakim was at the site when I visited and was most helpful.

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Sheik Hakim -the helpful caretaker

_DSC5063Aurangazeb’s son and his wife are also buried near the emperor’s tomb and Zainuddin Shirazi’s dargah is just behind. Behind the dargah there is a small room which is believed to house the robes of the prophet.

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tomb’s of Aurangzeb’s son, his wife and another woman
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The enclusre with the sacred robe and Md Altaf

Across the narrow and busy street is the dargah of Sayyad Burhanuddin another notable teacher. The tomb of the first Nizam is also in this complex.

The whole complex is devoid of any visual or architectural attraction but it stands as a testimony to the frugality of a mighty emperor who hailed from a dynasty which took pride in building grandiose monuments and tombs.

The Gates of Aurangabad

I came across the word ‘Darwaza’ when I entered  IIM, Ahmedabad in 1969.The city’s Lal Darwaza and Teen Darwaza were commercial centres as well as traffic hubs. I knew little about their historical significance.

During my summer job in Delhi in 1970, I became familiar with Ajmeri Gate and Kashmiri Gate and also Lahori Gate and Delhi(!) Gate. In fact, I was staying in a college hostel right on Ajmeri gate not far from the seamy quarters of this historical city.

Historically, these darwazas or gates have been integral parts of the fortified medieval cities. They aided in security and defence and also in collecting taxes and tolls.

In term of number of gates, Aurangabad tops the list with 52 gates. Of these 52, only 10 or 12 remain today. I could see and capture in my camera 5 or 6 of these during my visit last month.

The original name of the city was Khadki. it was the seat of power of Malik Amber, the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam of Ahmednagar. Some of the earliest gates (Bhadkal?) were built by him. His son who succeeded him renamed the city Fatehnagar. When the Mughals captured the city Aurangazeb was made the Viceroy by the Shah Jahan. Auraganzeb renamed it after himself – Aurangabad.

Delhi Darwaza
Delhi Darwaza (North)
Rangeen Gate
Rangeen Gate
Mahmud Darwaza at Panchakki
Mahmud Darwaza at Panchakki
Zafar Gate
Zafar Gate
Makkai Darwaza - Mecca Gate
Makkai Darwaza – Mecca Gate (West)