Chaturanga (Sanskrit: चतुरङ्ग; caturaṅga), or catur for short, which means 'Four Divisions' (referring to ancient army divisions of infantry Pawn (chess), cavalry Knight (chess), elephantry Alfil (chess), and chariotry Rook (chess)), is an ancient Indian strategy game that is commonly theorized to be the common ancestor of the board games chess, xiangqi, shogi, sittuyin, and makruk.
Chaturanga is first known from the Gupta Empire in India around the 6th century AD. In the 7th century, it was adopted as chatrang (shatranj) in Sassanid Persia, which in turn was the form of chess brought to late-medieval Europe.
According to Stewart Culin, chaturanga was first described in the Hindu text Bhavishya Purana.
The exact rules of chaturanga are unknown. Chess historians suppose that the game had similar rules to those of its successor, shatranj. In particular, there is uncertainty as to the moves of the Gaja (elephant).
The origin of chaturanga has been a puzzle for centuries. It has its origins in the Gupta Empire, with the earliest clear reference dating from the sixth century of the common era, and from north India. The first substantial argument that chaturanga is much older than this is the fact that the chariot is the most powerful piece on the board, although chariots appear to have been obsolete in warfare for at least five or six centuries. The counter-argument is that they remained prominent in literature. Several more recent scholars have proposed a gradual evolution in the centuries B.C. in the northern or northwestern border areas of Indian culture, where it was in contact with Greek culture brought by the Macedonian-Greek army, and where some rulers issued coins with fused Greek-Indian imagery. Myron Samsin argues that chaturanga originated in the kingdom of Bactria, ca. 255–55 B.C., in a fusion of the many short-moving men of the Greek game petteia, or poleis, with men derived from the various moves of an Indian race game, perhaps Seega or Chaupur, on the ashtapada, the board of another race game.
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