Ancient Chaturanga to Modern Chess

We know of Chess’s Indian origins, but how did it become the game as we today know?

According to legends, a sage named Sissa invented the game called Chaturanga for a king named Balhait. This war-based game was meant to teach valour, decision making, endurance and vigilance.

The earliest reference to the game finds mention in Banabhatta’s text Harsha Charita, a biography of King Harshavardhana of Kannauj composed between 625 and 640 CE.

According to Chatrang Nama, Sharvavarman, a king of Kannauj gifted the game to King Norshirwan of Persia around 620 CE, and Chaturanga became to be known as Chatrang. After the Arab conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century CE the name was corrupted to Shatranj.

Chaturanga means Four divisions, which were infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry. These pieces evolved into pawn, knight, rook and bishop respectively. In the Islamic world depiction of humans and animals were prohibited and thus the chess piece became abstract in forms as we see today.

Finally, Chess, as we know it today, crystallised in 19th century Europe with standardisation, encapsulating centuries of cultural fusion and strategic refinement.

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