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The origin of chess, shrouded in the mists of history, depends very much on one`s own perspective. We cannot, unfortunately, trace the history of chess with a bold black line that leads from the game as we know it today, to a point in the past where we can unambiguously say, “Uh ha! This is where it began!” Many ancient cultures including the Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Persians, and Arabs have staked their claims on the game`s antecedents, if not to the game itself. It is the purpose of this article to bring order out of the historical clutter surrounding the origin of chess, and to give you, the interested reader, a clear idea of its line of development.
As already intimated, it is no surprise that chess did not spring fully loaded with its pieces, boards, and rules from its point of origin to what we have today without a meandering style of evolutionary development. Recent scholarship on the history of chess would indicate that the Chinese emperor, Wu Ti (560-578), developed a game of divination called, hsiang ch`i , which is the ancient Chinese word for chess. The chessmen and their moves were patterned after the moon, planets, constellations, and the sun. This divinatory game may well have been the common ancestor of modern day Chinese chess-still widely played, and the game that took the western world, and indeed the entire world by storm. However, even taking the Chinese contributions into account, most scholars by a wide consensus place the origin of chess, at least in its modern beginnings, in India. We shall now see why this is so.
As you probably already have suspected, there is not a great deal of direct evidence for the primacy of India, for being the country of origin of chess. There is, however, a strong circumstantial case to be made. Thoughtful observers on the history of chess place its modern origins in northern India in about the fifth or sixth centuries A.D. Following the Arabic conquest of Persia, in the 7th century A.D. several of the leading Muslim scholars found chess already there, and commented that it had made its way to Persia from India. Indeed, the Persians themselves seem to support this view. In the Chatrang-namak, a series of Persian stories written in the early seventh century, chess is depicted as having arrived in Persia by way of India. But, how did Indian chess make its way to Persia? Probably through the normal activities of trade and other forms of cultural contact. By the time that the game arrived in Persia-it should be stated that there were variations of it, such as the four way game called chaturanga –not just one type, a certain type of it was being played on a 64 square board, with two players. If one were to take the linguistic evidence into consideration, then consider the following. Arabic for chess is, shatranj, which in turn comes from the Persian, chatrang, which in turn comes from the Indian (Sanskrit), chaturanga, a clear line leading back to India. Can we now say definitively where chess originated? No, but currently available evidence does seem to indicate northern India in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D.
So, for the moment, the origin and history of chess must remain inconclusive, as are so many things in human affairs. Maybe some day, with new discoveries, we shall know for certain.
Good article thanks,
indeed there are several mith legends and stories also linked with chess and India maybe you want to talk about :-)
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