A Brief History of Indian Chess Pieces

chess set

History of Indian Chess Pieces

Chess was played in India from ancient time with the patronage from the Royals. The earlier name of chess is Chaturanga. (having four limbs or army) – Elephants, chariots, cavalry, and infantry. All

The epic Kurukshetra war took only eighteen days after the treachery Kauravas used in Chaturanga played against Pandavas. The game became the craze in Persia. The Gaja (Elephant/ Haathi)  is changed to Bishop. Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a checkered game board with 64 squares arranged in an 8×8 grid.


wooden chessChess set has been with us for centuries, through countless cultures and historical moments. A look at the game’s development throughout history opens a fascinating window on cultural evolution, transporting our minds to distant lands and eras. Most historians believe it started in India, Persia, or China.


Origin of Chess Game

Chess is actually a form of an old Indian game known as Shatranj. Chess originated from the two-player Indian war game.The more ancient forms are known as Chaturanga. Chaturanga developed in Gupta Empire, India around the 6th century AD, from India chess spread to Persia and subsequently spread to Southern Europe.

Chess being played in Persia some 1,350 years ago. The ancient chess of Arabia is known as shatranj. The king of the old game was a king, as our king, and had the same move. All the Elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry are supposed to protect the king even if they lose their lives. It is strange that how Queen entered the game as it was a taboo for ladies in the battlefield. In some places, the most powerful are called the minister and not the queen.

From its mysterious beginning, somewhere in the heart of Asia, chess spread east, west, north, and south. The Royals used gold silver or ivory coins. Even in olden days actual human beings and animals were used. , A win in chess was by checkmate, In some parts of India the rook, knight, and bishop were renamed as Boat, Horse, and Elephant, or Elephant, Horse, and Camel.

Rules of chess

Each player begins with 16 pieces- one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns.  The objective is to checkmate the opponent’s king by placing it under an inescapable threat of capture.  A win was by checkmate or stalemate.

The movement of Elephant in the game of chess is defined – diagonal. Bishops cannot jump over other pieces. ( Ashtāpada, is another name or chess which is played on an uncheckered 8×8 board, sometimes with unique markings, on which earlier chaturanga was played.

Each chess piece has its way of moving. The knight (horse) is the only piece that can leap over other As the game of chess progressed  Elephant, piece finds its way evolving into the Bishop.


The officials of chess are  FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), the international body for chess.

chess set bone


A war elephant was an elephant trained for war and used was to charge the enemy, breaking their ranks. The elephant division of war elephants is known as elephantry. The Elephant is a piece used in Chinese Chess (Xiangqi ), and the game is called elephant game.

The elephant is an old world iconic war piece is found in many war games.Even now the elephants and chess boards are the favorites artistic pieces sought after by curio collectors.

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