Heard of Puli joodam, Pacheesi, Kailasam? This duo from Hyderabad is reviving ancient board games

news Games Monday, October 24, 2016 - 16:24

Catching a whiff of its prey, the tiger crouched low and stealthily crept up to the sheep. But alas, the tiger stepped onto a twig, and the sheep knew. The tiger gave chase, and the sheep ran for its life.

If you’re wondering whether tigers actually hunt sheep and whether sheep can actually run, stop right there, you’re interrupting the imagination of two players who are fighting each other in a game of Puli Joodam, an old board game popular in the undivided Andhra Pradesh region. Incidentally, versions of Puli Joodam – Lamb and the Tiger – are played by children in large groups. One child is chosen a tiger and three or four are designated lambs. The other children form a circle which acts as the board. The tiger runs and tries to catch the lambs.

Board games such as Puli Joodam (Tiger-Sheep) have all but died out. To revive the magic of these old, traditional games, two childhood friends from Hyderabad, Archana Reddy and Sangita Rajesh, came up with the idea of ‘Good Old Games’ for the younger generation. They have revived board games which could involve hunting or calculation and strategy.

Friends for nearly a decade, both Archana and Sangita have worked with children for several years. While 39-year-old Sangita runs a play school where she teaches children through different kinds of games, 35-year-old Archana used to have one of her own, but gave it up.

“When I see today, they’re always with their iPad, PlayStation and video games. I feel they hardly socialize. We both wanted to do something innovative for kids’ games which could enable them to socialize and interact with each other,” Archana says.

Discussing this once, the pair came up with the idea, and after two months of research, they fleshed it out. Working with artists from the undivided Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka region, they re-created old board games and had them fashioned out of wood, embroidered and printed fabric, jute, brass.

In April last year, they conducted an exhibition of some rare games, and were pleasantly surprised by the response. Last year’s enthusiasm gave them the courage to plan one this year too: Over 60% of the board games put up for sale during the two-day exhibition last week, were sold out. 

Older people were in high attendance last year. But this year, older people brought along their grandchildren and were seen explaining the games to them. (Each game prepared by the duo comes with an instruction manual).

“Ancient games were engaging as well as helped children to learn, nowadays the video games don’t teach anything,” Archana said.

This is not so with traditional games such as Vamana Guntalu, a board game with 14 holes arranged in two rows, says Archana. Variants of this game have been found all over south India and in other parts of the world.

Archana explains that the game requires the two players to interact. It sharpens concentration and helps develop mathematical skills.  

Two players sit across each other with the board between them. The board has 14 holes, seven for each player, a “home” for each side, and counters (which could be seeds, shells or stones). The idea is to capture all these counters based on a set of rules.

While the most common type of board is a rectangular without any aesthetic embellishment, Archana and Sangita decided to design it in a shape of a fish.

They also re-created a game called Pachisi. The board – in the shape of a symmetrical cross – is made out of cloth. A maximum of four players can participate at a time. Usually, it is done in pairs. The easiest explanation of the rules of the game is that Ludo is a modern version of it.

Archana and Sangita have created nearly 10 designs with the pachisi board. These include cloth boards which are hand printed or embroidered, and those made out of rosewood or on copper plates.

They have also revived Kailasam, which is known today, as Snakes and Ladders.

The duo does not have plans for mass production at this stage. As these games involve interaction, partners and strategies, Archana hopes the games create bond between families, improve mathematical skills, memory, logical and strategic thinking.

You can approach Archana and Sangita on 8897571212

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