A recently renovated pillar in the Palani temple bore inscriptions of a Sudoku-like game.

Did south Indians play Sudoku 300 years back Archeologists find rare inscriptions in TN
news Archaeology Wednesday, March 28, 2018 - 13:48

When you think of traditional south Indian games that have been played since ancient times, you might think of pallankuzhi, aadu puli aattam or maybe even paramapadham. But what about Sudoku?

Archaeologists have found inscriptions on a stone pillar in a mandapam located in the foothills of Palani, which possibly indicates that a Sudoku-like game used to be played when the pillar was built. The mandapam is generally used during the Panguni uthram festival that is celebrated in April.

Substantiating his claim, archaeologist Narayanamoorthy shares that the style in which the numbers are engraved suggests that the pillar belongs to the 17th century.

The inscriptions found on the pillar show a 3x3 square with markings of numbers written in Tamil. When added in any direction, the numbers total to 15, which Narayanamoorthy points out, is indicative of the temple deity’s (Murugan) number.

“According to Hindu beliefs, every god has a number and Lord Muruga’s number is 6 (1+5=6). Interestingly, during festivities, the deity is placed in front of this pillar. Inscriptions of these Sudoku squares here could indicate its importance. What we gather from this is that the game's logic was used here long before it was played elsewhere in the world,” he explains.  

Puthiya Thalaimurai Youtube Screengrab

Narayanamoorthy adds that this particular mandapam in the temple has been renovated repeatedly since the 13th century. “Multiple coatings of limestone on these pillars had hidden the inscriptions thus far. Now, the mandapam is being renovated for the festival and that’s when we noticed the inscriptions on the pillar.”

History of Sudoku

Sudoku, a popular number puzzle now, began appearing in newspapers in its present form only in the late 20th century. Earlier, a similar version of it was published in newspapers in France.

The puzzle was introduced in Japan by Nikoli, a Japanese puzzle company, in the paper Monthly Nikolist in April 1984. While British newspapers are well-known for their crossword puzzles, the first Sudoku puzzle appeared on its pages only in November 2004.

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