Indian Board Games – 10 ancient and traditional board games to play

Ancient India Board Games

While there are plenty of modern board games available for us to pass time, it might not be a surprise to know that our ancestors also played a lot of board games. They developed such games for recreation and mental fitness, with modern versions of them, passed along to us.  If you are looking for the best Indian board games that your ancestors played, continue scrolling to get a rundown.

Indian Board Games that your ancestors played

Here is a list of the top 10 Indian board games:

  1. Ludo
  2. Snakes and Ladders
  3. Chaturanga
  4. Lambs and Tigers
  5. Chowka Bhara
  6. Jhandi Munda
  7. Kattam Vilayattu
  8. Pallankuzhi
  9. Dadu
  10. Solah Seedi

Ludo

Originally known as Pachisi, Ludo is a traditional board game that was discovered in the 6th century in India. It was known as Chaupar in the ancient era and the contemporary version of the game was first played by the Mughal emperors of India. Take a look at the 15 interesting facts about Ludo.

How to play?

Ludo is a strategy board game for two to four players in which every player races their 4 tokens from the start to the finish, according to the rolls of a single dice. Each player rolls a die and must get a six to enter their token from its yard to the starting square. Learn how to play Ludo in just 5 steps!

Pro Tip: Open all the tokens first and never run only a single piece all the time.

Approximate. Price: Rs. 250

Did you know you can now play Ludo Online? Here are the three best Ludo games that you can play online and win cash up to 10 lakhs.  

Snakes & Ladders

Snakes & Ladders originates from a family of Indian dice board games. The game originated in ancient India as Moksha Patam and was brought to the UK in the 1890s. It was associated with the Hindu philosophy of destiny and desire.

The game mainly emphasized destiny as a mixture of skill and luck. It has also been used as a tool for teaching the effects of good and evil deeds.

How to Play?

The player begins with the token on the starting square and follows a fixed route marked on the game board. On the completion of a move, if the player’s token lands on the lower end of the ladder, it moves up the ladder to a higher position.

However, if the token lands at the snake’s head, it must go down to the end of the tail. The first player to finish the board is the winner. Learn how to play Snakes and Ladders in just 5 steps!

Pro Tip: The game only depends on dice rolls. All you can do is roll and hope for an ideal number.

Approximate Price: Rs. 150

Did you know you can play Snakes and Ladders online? Take a look at how the rules are different for online vs. offline gameplay.

Chaturanga

Chaturanga is an ancient two-player board game that originated at least 1,500 years ago. The origin of Chaturanga has been a mystery. It is believed that the game was invented during the Gupta Empire in the 6th century AD. It was then adopted in Sassanian Persia as Chatrang or Shatranj. The game originates as a didactic game to teach young princes about the four parts of the royal army.

How to play?

The exact gameplay of Chaturanga is unknown and hence, historians suppose that the game has similar rules to chess. You play the game on an 8×8 unchecked board with special markings. The game involves six-sided dice movement in which every number has a different meaning:

  • 1 and 2 refer to King and Pawn
  • 3 is Ship
  • 4 and 5 refer to Horse and Elephant
  • 6 means that no unit can be moved

The ultimate objective is to capture the opponent’s king, just like in chess.

Pro Tip: Make sure the king has protection always.

Lambs and Tigers

Locally referred to as the Game of Goats and Tigers, this board game is a strategic two-player leopard hunt game played in South India. It is played mainly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. It has different names in different languages, such as Aadu Puli Attam in Tamil, Puli-Meka in Telugu, and Huli Ghatta in Kannada.

How to Play?

There are three variations of the empty grid on which you can play.

Begin the game with three tigers, one placed on the Apex, while the others are in the inner place closest to the Apex. The pieces must be put at the intersection of the board lines. The player controlling the goats (there can be as many as 15 goats) moves first by placing a goat onto a free intersection on the board.

The one who is controlling the tiger will then move to an adjacent position. A tiger can capture the goat by jumping over it while the opponent tries to prevent it.

Pro Tip: Keep your goats close, for unity is strength.

Approximate Price: Rs.709

Chowka Bhara

Chowka Bhara is an example of a chance-based game that also requires a bit of strategy. This Vedic board game has some references to the Indian epic tale of Mahabharata. Here are the various names for this game:

  • Katte Mane in Kannada
  • Pakidakali in Malayalam
  • Kanna Kauri in Hindi
  • Changa Po in Rajasthan

How to play?

It is a two or four-player game that requires a 5×5 square board. The game starts by throwing four cowry shells. Each player takes a turn to roll the shells. The mouth of the shell that lands downwards has a value of 0 and upwards has a value of 1.

Depending on the numbers, the players can move one of their pawns. The players have to move in an anti-clockwise direction only and should cut the opponent to move their pawn back to the inner square.

The first player to have all their pawns in the central square wins the game.

Pro Tip: Move the pawn smartly to optimize the chance of winning.

Approximate Price: Rs. 750

Jhandi Munda

Jhandi Munda is a traditional betting game played in India. It is a prominent Indian board game and has been popular in parts of the country since the 18th century. This dice-based game originated in the north-eastern part of India and its variations are also played in the UK and Nepal where it is known as Langur Burja.

How to play?

The game has six symbols – Hear, Spade, Club, Face, Diamond, and Flag. The six faces of each dice will have these symbols. You have to place bets on one of the six symbols. If you roll the six dice and the symbol of your choice faces up most of the time you will win the game.

Pro Tip: Choosing the right symbol and winning has an element of luck to it.

Approximate Price: Rs. 2,000

Kattam Vilayattu

Also known as Siru Kattam, it is a traditional game and is a fun variation of noughts and crosses or tic-tac-toe. The game originated from Tami Nadu and is also known as Chaar Goti in other places. It was designed as a pocket game that can be carried around easily.

How to play?

The game requires immense concentration and strategic planning. The basic alignment of the game suggests that the opposing players take turns placing their coins on the indicated positions on the board. Once you place all the coins, you can then move them alternately, until one of the players gets four coins in a row.

Pro Tip: Try to place your first coin in the corner.

Approx Price: Rs. 650

Pallankuzhi

A traditional game played in the Southern part of India, Pallankuzhi is popular among kids and elders. It is believed that Pallankuzhi originated during the Chola dynasty in India. It is famous in the south region of the country, especially in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The game is also known by different names in different languages, such as Kuzhipura in Malayalam and Auli Guli Mane in Kannada.

How to play?

To play, you will need a wooden board with 2 rows and 7 columns, with a pit in each square. There are a total of 14 pits and 146 counters (which could be shells or stones). Each player distributes the shells over all the pits on the board on his side (the middle pits will have only one shell each). The players will then try to capture the shells, depending on the rules and variants of the game. It ends when one player gets all the shells.

Pro Tip: Try starting the game from the third pit on your right side.

Approximate Price: Rs. 399

Dadu

Dadu is a popular game by the Gujarati Bohra community and is perfect for family gatherings. It is based on wartime strategy and planning. It involves 14 players divided into two teams.

How to play?

To play the game, players position their pieces on each side of the board and the team that manages to cross over all their pieces to the center will win. The players require a Dadu board, dice, and markers to play the game.

Players can move their pieces out of their home only when they get a da (1 on the dice). The two teams start from opposite directions. Once the pieces are on the board, the players roll the dice and mark off the numbers rolled. Pieces can cut other pieces by landing on the same spot. On reaching the last space, marked by X, the player needs to get a day to get to the center of the board. The team that manages to get all pieces at the center wins the game.

Pro Tip: It’s a chance-based game. Hope the roll of the dice is kind to your team.

Approximate Price: Rs. 2,000

Solah Seedi

It is a popular battlefield board game for two players with an equal number of pieces. The majority of the players who play Solah Seedi reside in North India. It also has different names such as Bagh Chal, Goti ka Khel, Vettai Athara Seiya, and so on.

How to play?

This high-intensity game challenges both your heart and mind. Each player enters the battlefield with 16 game pieces to kill as many opponents as they can. The players alternate turns in moving their pieces along the designated lines. A player can capture an opponent’s piece by moving his piece over it from an adjacent position. The objective is to capture or kill all your opponent’s pieces.

Pro tip: Think hard before making any move that might complicate your position.

Approximate Price: Rs. 325

While these ancient Indian board games help us refresh our minds and help people bond, playing these games also helps us keep in touch with our traditions. Do gather your family and friends and try your hand at these enjoyable games.

Indian Board Games – FAQs

What popular board game comes from India?

Pachisi, Chowka Bara, Aadu Puli Aatam, Kattam Vilayattu, and Saanp Seedi are a few of the ancient Indian board games.

What is the national board game in India?

Ludo or Pachisi is considered by many as the national board game of India, though there is no such official status.

Is Chausar the same as ludo?

Yes. Although they look different, both Chausar and Ludo follow the same rules for winning.

Is Chaturanga a predecessor of chess?

The ancient board game of Chaturanga is believed to be one of the earliest predecessors of chess.