#Debate: The game of Chess originated India, not Persia

Some historians have erroneously mentioned that the game of chess originated in Persia. Actually, the game originated in India and spread to Persia and from there to Arabia. In Europe, chess evolved into roughly its current form in the 15th century. The Hindu epic Ramayana has references to the game. The game Shatranj plays an important part in Mahabharata. It is, in fact, this game led to the Mahabharata war. Still many Left and colonial historians were not willing to give Indians the credit for creating this game.

However, independent Western scholars had argued that India is the place where this game originated. Burnouf says that the “Indians are a nation rich in spiritual gifts, and endowed with peculiar sagacity and penetration.” It is the wisdom of the Hindus that invented the best and the greatest of indoor games, the game of Chess, which is now universally acknowledged to be of Hindu origin, the Sanskrit chaturanga becoming shaturanga in Persian.

Christian missionary Sir William Jones says: “The Hindus are said to have boasted of three inventions, all of which indeed are admirable; the method of instructing by apologues; the decimal scale and the game of Chess, on which they have some curious treatises.”

Professor Heeren says: “Chess-board is mentioned in Ramayana, where an account of Ayodhya is given.”

Chess is thus proved to have been in use in India long before Moses and Hermes made their appearance in the world. J. Mill, however, with his characteristic prejudice against the Hindus, observes that “there is no evidence that Hindus invented the game, except their own pretentious.” On this, Professor Wilson says: “This is not true; we have not the evidence of their pretentious. The evidence is that of Mohamadan writers; the king of India is said, by Firdausi in the Shahnama — and the story is therefore of the tenth century at latest — to have sent a Chess-board and a teacher to Nausherauran. Sir W. Jones refers to Firdausi as his authority, and this reference might have shown by whom the story was told. Various Mohamedan writers are quoted by Hyde, in his Historia Shahiludii, who all concur in attributing the invention to the Indians.”

After the Islamic conquest of Persia, Arabs picked up this game to other lands. The Moors of North Africa rendered Persian “shatranj” as shaṭerej, which gave rise to the Spanish acedrex, axedrez and ajedrez; in Portuguese it became xadrez, and in Greek zatrikion, but in the rest of Europe it was replaced by versions of the Persian shāh (“king”). Thus, the game came to be called ludus scacchorum or scacc(h)i in Latin, scacchi in Italian, escacs in Catalan, échecs in French (Old French eschecs); schaken in Dutch, Schach in German, szachy in Polish, šahs in Latvian, skak in Danish, sjakk in Norwegian, schack in Swedish, šakki in Finnish, šah in South Slavic languages, sakk in Hungarian and şah in Romanian.