Revisiting games, decoding history through grid patterns in temples

Grid patterns, often found on temple floors across the city, will turn inspiration for impromptu traditional games like Aadu Puli Attam, Pallanguzhi and many others which will be played as part of the upcoming Madras Day celebrations.
Revisiting games, decoding history through grid patterns in temples
Grid patterns found on the floor of the Marundeswarar Temple in Thiruvanmiyur

Chennai

The heritage walk on August 27 to the Marundeswarar Temple in Thiruvanmiyur will have a round of games thrown in — but with a twist — they are inspired by grids carved on the floor of the temple by masons of yore. Vinita Sidhartha of Kreeda Games explained, “The floor of the Marundeswarar Temple has two grids for games. One is a grid for the popular game Aadu Puli Attam , while the other is a grid that has not been seen commonly. We will be testing this for the first time during the walk and find out what games can be played based on this particular ‘board’.” Kapaleeshwarar Temple, pointed out this game researcher, has eight different ‘boards’. “While conducting this particular walk, we will also be discussing the relevance of so many grids on these temples,” she added. 
According to Vinita, these ‘boards’ on the floor are ‘graffiti games’. “They have been around for ages. I think the stone masons, who built these temples, carved the grids to play these games before covering it up. After years, the top covering has erased to reveal these grids. However, there is no official proof,” she pointed out, recalling a particularly interesting experience, “During my trip to Palmyria in Syria, I came across a Pallanguzhi grid on the floor of a Roman temple. 
Since Palmyra was a part of the silk route, apart from trade, I think these games could have also been exchanged.” Vinita said they are also researching more into the significance of traditional games in today’s context. According to Vinita, the concept of ‘play’ has changed drastically down the ages. “Earlier, everybody played games, including our parents and grandparents. But now, only children play and that too, in structured formats like a class. 
Play is not unstructured as it was earlier, when we just played for fun. These traditional games are so elementary that anybody can pick it up and play,” she added. Historian Pradeep Chakravarthy, who will be conducting the Marundeswarar temple walk, said in ancient times, temples were places where people came to relax and have a good time. “It is important to see temples beyond their religious significance. They are important repositories of minute details and problems of the past.
In this regard, temples in Tamil Nadu are unique because they have inscriptions on the walls – which hardly anybody bothers to look at. But if you do study these inscriptions closely, they relate to social and political norms, democracy and even criminal law! We are hoping that by introducing these games, we will encourage people to view the temple beyond its religious context,” he concluded.

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