How ancient are Indian board games?

Shiva and Parvati, the perfect board game ambassadors!

One of the most enduring motifs throughout Indian art has been Shiva and Parvati playing a game of dice. Usually one can see Parvati holding a dice in her hand, about to play.

The obsessive play of Shiva and Parvati often results in Shiva putting at stake (and subsequently losing) everything and causing a lot of divine commotion. In some traditions (particularly, eastern Indian sculptures), Shiva is shown as always losing to Parvati. This recurrent loss of Shiva to Parvati has led some scholars to wonder, ‘Why does Shiva play? Why does this god keep slipping into the game of dice, knowing, as he seems to, that he will almost certainly lose, and that other destructive consequences will flow from this defeat?’ Reading board games culturally can illuminate lost traditions, highlight alternative ways of understanding religion and, above all, provide us with a route to a complex cultural past.

Ishva recommends reading this wonderful article written by Sahapedia

The Art: 💮1/3 Relief of Shiva and Parvati playing a game of dice from tenth-century Madhya Pradesh, Rani Durgavati Museum, Jabalpur (Courtesy: Digital South Asian Library)

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