In search of Gy ān Caupaṛ boards

Jacob Schmidt-Madsen jacob at FABULARASA.DK
Tue Oct 30 23:54:30 UTC 2012

Dear list,

I am currently conducting a study of traditional Indian Gyān Caupaṛ 
(skt. jñānapaṭṭa) boards used to play a kind of instructional karmic 
game destined to become the precursor of Snakes and Ladders. I have 
found a number of photographic reproductions of various boards (Jain, 
Vaiṣṇava, Śaivite, Muslim) in the following publications:

* Shimkhada, Deepak (1983) "A Preliminary Study of the Game of Karma in 
India, Nepal, and Tibet" in Artibus Asiae 44:4, p. 308-22.

* Topsfield, Andrew (1985) "The Indian Game of Snakes and Ladders" in 
Artibus Asiae 46:3, pp. 203-26.

* Topsfield, Andrew (2006) "Snakes and Ladders in India: Some Further 
Discoveries" in Artibus Asiae 66:1, pp. 143-79.

A reproduction of a Tibetan board also appears in Mark Tatz and Jody 
Kent's "Rebirth: The Tibetan Game of Liberation" (New York, 1977), while 
a somewhat new-agy recreation of a Vaiṣṇava board is found in Harish 
Johari's "Leela: The Game of Self-Knowledge" (Vermont, 1980).

Several of the boards in the above publications also appear as 
illustrations in more popular books on ancient Indian board games.

Owing to the fragile material (cloth, paper) and relatively careless 
handling of the boards, they are apparently few and far between (the 
oldest known versions dating to the late 18th century). I would 
therefore be very interested in learning about the existence of boards 
(published or not) hidden away or on display in places where I have not 
yet looked.

My present focus is on 72-square Vaiṣṇava boards as they seem to be the 
more numerous and widespread (with 84-square Jain boards running a close 
second), but news of any kind of boards unknown to me would be heartily 

Kind regards,

Jacob Schmidt-Madsen
Assistant Teacher, Department of Indology
University of Copenhagen

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