Solah Seedi is a long-lost game in the state that has been revived using inscriptions they found on the stone walls and floors of temples.
“There are a lot of games graffitied on the stones used to build these temples, but when you see the same patterns inscribed over and over, you know they used to be an important part of the culture then. Much like today, games were not considered an important enough part of the culture to be documented officially in those days. So, the only record we have of the games played during the old days are forgotten and neglected inscriptions like these,” Vinita explains.
Enthusiasts trying a hand at the game at the launch
Vinita insists that while games may seem silly to adults, they have an intrinsic ability to instill values and ethics in children. “Solah Seedi is a battle board game that is played by two teams with an even number of pieces. There are very particular and fixed rules to this game, much like how battles were fought in real life in the old days. Empathy and ethics form a strong basis for these rules which were followed to the letter, unlike the ‘win any way you can’ kind of policy with which we wage battles these days. For example, the way the pieces move forward in a straight line is very similar to how a column of foot soldiers marched during war in those times,” she explains.
After launching the game in a modern board game format, Vinita held two sessions for interested audience, to teach them the rules of the game. Apart from this, she also organised a walk at the Thiagaraja Swamy Temple (also called Vadivudai Amman Temple) in Tiruvottiyur, one of the temples where the inscription was found, and taught the games to the locals there as well.
Speaking about Solah Seedi’s history, Vinita adds, “Though it is a popular game in north India and many people are still familiar with it, none of the locals in Tamil Nadu seem to remember this game. Even though there are ways to date a stone, there is no way to date an inscription. So we are not sure how old this game is or whether or not it originated in the state. It could have been inscribed before the stones were brought to build the temple, or by those who played the game inside the temple or it could be an entirely foreign game to the state, inscribed on the stones during the Anglo- Indian war when these temples were temporarily converted into forts. These graffiti tell us a lot about games, their variations, their spread and popularity. With temples modernising, many old floors are being ripped up to be replaced by modern and convenient marbles and we stand to lose a lot of our history.”