Chaturanga (Chaturang) – a board game originating in India, considered the prototype of European chess. It was played by 4 players (the name „chaturanga” means „four troops”) and many of the rules and figures resembled modern chess (e.g., such figures as a king, a horse, a pawn were played).

Indian gods Krishna and Radha play chaturanga
Indian gods Krishna and Radha, embodying divine unity in two complementary forms, play chaturanga on an 8×8 chessboard called Ashtāpada

Mat in Chaturanga

The so-called mate occurs when all the figures and pawns of the enemies are knocked out. When the game is over, everyone takes out from under the chessboard as many silver coins as the number of runners he has beaten.

A player who has lost all pawns and pieces, but has a king, has the right to take it off the chessboard, end the game, and keep his king for settlement.

It was counted who had how many points, who had less had to pay, to the one who had more.

Starting the game

Each of the four players puts 18 silver coins under the chessboard.

The monetary value of the figures

pawn – 1 silver
boat – 2 silvers
horse – 3 silvers
elephant – 4 silvers
Raja – 5 pieces of silver

Movement of the gears

pawn – normally as in chess, but a double move from the first line can pawn make only if the player throws both dice 5

boat – by two fields diagonally, similar to a laufra, jumps over other figures, when four boats line up on four adjacent fields in a square then the last boat beats all of them, so-called. boat triumph.

horse – normally

elephant – at first it walked two fields forward, backward or sideways, over time it could walk any number of fields in a column, that is, it began to walk like a tower in chess.

King – went one field in either direction, as the player threw the dice two 5’s, castling followed, that is, the king could make 2 moves.


Players took turns rolling 2 dice. Everyone then made 2 moves. The result on the dice meant a figure, if it fell out 1 or 6 he would throw such a dice again.

2 – goes by boat
3 – goes the horse
4 – goes the elephant
5 – goes by advice or pawn

The player could opt out of one or both moves.


The player who stood with his king on the field of a friendly king charged 1 silver more.
The player who stood with his king on the field of the enemy king collected 2 more silvers.
The player who stood with his king on the field of the enemy king beating him collected 4 more silvers.

The player who stood with his king on the throne field of a friendly king had the right to manage his army, from that moment he moved the biers of both teams, so called. unification of the empire.

Team game in Chaturanga

It was possible to play 4 individual players.
They could also play 2 teams of two, in which case the friends sat opposite each other.

Promotion of pawns

The pawn, having entered the last line, became a figure, provided that such had previously been beaten. The one who knocked it down had to give the figure back to the owner and got a pawn for it.

But the player could not choose what figure he would become, he would only become the figure he was standing in front of at the start of the game, in other words he would become the figure on which field he entered, on the first field a boat, on the second field a horse, on the third field an elephant, and on the fourth field he would stay, because he could not turn into a king, even if he was beaten.

Exchange of captives

If the two teams have each taken a king, then when the second of these kings is taken, you can ask for a prisoner exchange, if the opposing team agrees, then 2 kings, one from each of the opposing teams, are returned to the chessboard.

Chaturanga castling

A king in a chaturanga was entitled to one move like a horseman, provided he had never before been honored.
Such a castling appears after the juxtaposition of runners on the contemporary (2 players with runners on the sides instead of 4 players in the corners of the chessboard).
It is probable (although we do not know the sources for this) that castling occurred in chaturanga, since after the figures were rearranged, the pieces retained their original movements (the extension of the rook movement occurred as early as the time of chaturanga), while the extension of the rook movement and castling with the rook only appears in European chess.


On average, a winner could win or lose 9 coins, and it happened, although less frequently, that he won 54 or lost 18.

How much was the game worth?

We will not determine what kind of coinage was in force in the India of Hammurabi, who used chess to perfect his war tactics, but the situation was probably similar to that in Poland:

under Mieszko the first, the circulating coin is a denarius on the Roman model worth 1.6 grams of silver, the national average was 3 denarii per day (18 per week) – also appeared obol 0.5 denarii and ternar 3 denarii

Casimir the Great in 1367 introduced the Polish zloty on the Hungarian model (3.2 grams of gold), and the Polish penny (3.5 grams of silver), the national average was 1.66 pennies per day (10 pennies per week). 1 Polish zloty is 30 pennies.

It can be assumed that after a week’s work, the average player could play chess at a Saturday party in a tavern, but then rather without extra beer.

Interestingly, there were situations where one even staked one’s freedom on the principle: „if I win, you pay so much and so many coins, if I lose we sign a feudal contract,” which in practice meant (legal at the time) slavery.

In Poland, salaries reached about 1 zloty a month, which was enough for a hut for 2 zloty and bread, possibly a horse for 2 zloty, a cart for 4 zloty, the prices of handmade clothes, and iron-based armament items were absurdly high (even 16 cents per quad meter of canvas).