Chess had its Origin in India and the Oldest Reference in the Ramayana
by Chitragupt Pariwar (Hum Kayasth) on Monday, November 1, 2010 at 4:37pm
Even though it is widely accepted that the game of Chess had its origin in India, there are some people who would like to say, ‘the origin of Chess is lost in antiquity.’ Writing on the topic of Origin of Chess, Viswanathan Anand, Indian chess grandmaster and the current World No.1 player categorically states that chess comes from India.
In the article titled ‘The Indian Defense’ in Time, Anand says that he has heard the ownership of chess being claimed by Russians, Chinese, Ukrainians, Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Spaniards and Greeks.
Anand says that there is no doubt that the oldest reference of Chess is found in ancient Indian texts like the Ramayana, which was orally transmitted between 750 BC and 500 BC. He indicates that Chess was invented by Ravana, the king of Lanka, to play with his wife Mandodari. But the inventor was thoroughly defeated by his first opponent, Mandodari, according to Anand.
The world’s oldest political treatise, Arthashastra, written in 3rd Century BC by Chanakya talks about chess as a game of war strategy, known as chaturanga, played on an 8-by-8 board.
Chess traveled from India to Persia via Afghanistan. Arabs learned chess from Persia and they carried it to North Africa and from there it traveled to Europe. Chess became hugely popular in Spain. The 15th century conquest of Iberia by Catholic forces led by Queen Isabella I changed the rules of chess.
On the board, the queen became the most important piece; the bishop replaced the camel and flanked the king and queen. (Modern chess is still played by rules formalized under Isabella's reign.) Around this time, the Spanish player Luis RamÍrez de Lucena wrote what may have been the first book about chess theory.
Soviet Russia which dominated Chess until the end of the 20th century was one of the last old world nations to receive chess. And the dawn of the present century saw the title of world chess champion coming to the land where it originated through Anand.