In search of Gy ān Caupaṛ bo ards

Allen Thrasher alanus1216 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Oct 31 21:20:17 UTC 2012

Dear Jacob,

Andrew Topsfield has made a personal collection of these and also published a full book dealing with them:

LC control no.:2006345042 
LCCN permalink: 
Type of material:Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.) 
Main title:The art of play : board and card games in India / edited by Andrew Topsfield. 
Published/Created:Mumbai : Marg Publications [on behalf of the National Centre for the Performing Arts], c2006. 
Description:168 p. : ill. (chiefly col.), 1 col. map ; 32 cm. 


  I own or used to own a couple myself, that is to say,  I can't remember at the moment if I have already donated them to the Library of Congress or not.  I will check and get back to you.  If you don't hear from me after a few weeks please remind me off the list.


 From: Jacob Schmidt-Madsen <jacob at FABULARASA.DK>
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 7:54 PM
Subject: [INDOLOGY] In search of Gyān Caupaṛ boards
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 welcomed.

Kind regards,

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

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