Dear colleagues,

I am reading a text about a medieval Indian board game in which a throw of seven cowrie shells faceup is known as a kalasaptaka. The throw either returns a pawn to the starting square or moves it forward to the finishing square (the text is unclear as to the precise meaning), after which the pawn (varāṭikā) becomes known as an ardhagṛhiṇī.

The interpretation of kalasaptaka and ardhagṛhiṇī as either positive or negative would solve the riddle as to whether the pawn moves backwards or forwards, but I am unsure about their exact meaning. Kalasaptaka might be understood as a "weak seven" in the sense of an unlucky seven, or as a "sweet seven" in the sense of a lucky seven. Similarly, ardhagṛhiṇī might be understood as "possessing half the (home) square" in the sense that only one more throw is required to bear off the pawn, or as "being half a housewife" in the sense that the pawn did not make it all the way around the board.

If you have come across any of these terms before, or if you have any insights into how they might best be understood, I would be very grateful for any suggestions.

Best regards,

Jacob Schmidt-Madsen
Postdoctoral Researcher in Indology
Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen