Tamil Nadu has a historical connection to Chess

Tamil Nadu has a historical connection to Chess
Tamil Language

Tamil Nadu has a historical connection to Chess

Tamil Nadu has a rich history of association with Chess. The Sathuranga Vallabhanathar temple in Thirupoovanur reveals the significance. Also that it houses 17 of 26 Indian Grand Masters speaks of the connection between Tamil Nadu and chess. 

The 44th International FIDE Chess Olympiad that is being hosted by India at Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu has sparked excitement and curiosity among young people. The FIDE Chess Olympiad was originally planned to take place in Russia. Amidst the tensions of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Arkady Dvorkovich, President, FIDE, The International Chess Federation started looking for other locations and new hosts to the olympiad. Given the criticality of the situation, when Bharat Singh Chauhan, Secretary of All India Chess Federation (AICF) proposed that India could host the 44th International chess olympiad, the more than excited Dvorkovich happily agreed. Chauhan shortlisted Delhi, Chennai, and Gujarat as venues for the grand event and the bids began. When he met Tamil Nadu CM Thiru. M.K. Stalin, he accepted to host the historical event and endorsed the move. This way Chennai, Tamil Nadu grabbed an opportunity to host the International Chess Olympiad. 

With more than 35% of grand masters and international chess players in India hailing from Tamil Nadu, it is more than an appropriate place to host the FIDE Chess Olympiad. The blog is an endeavour to capture the historical link that Tamil Nadu has with the game of Chess and highlight the International chess players evolving from Tamil Nadu.. 

India and Chess – The historical significance

Indian fascination with chess, the extraordinary game that tests your intelligence, problem solving abilities, and critical thinking is a never ending principle. 

Did you know that 

India is the birth place of Sadurangam, that has evolved into the modern chess? 

The origin of Sadurangamas per historical data available dates back to more than ten centuries ago. A close observation would reveal that Sadurangam itself means four wings and has a symbolic representation of the four wings of the ancient army of Indians covering the following. 

  • Infantry
  • Cavalry
  • Charioteers
  • Elephants

Sadurangam was played very differently from how we play the modern chess game today. In Shiva Purana there is a note about Lord Shiva playing an 8 x 8 game of chess or however it was called those days. Beyond, the well-known epics Ramyana and Mahabharata has some references to chess. 

In Ramayanam, there are two narrations that hold significance to the ancient chess game in India. One- the demon Ravana builds the chess game to entertain his wife Mandodari. She is said to have learnt the game sooner and established a winning hand over the demon king Ravana. There are also stories that signify the happenings the other way around-  that it was  Mandodari who discovered the game in an endeavour to put an end or atleast slow down Ravana’s real fighting spree. Mandodari was worried and anxious to see Ravana’s continued interest in fighting wars. She surrendered to Lord Ganesha to somehow stop him and he agrees. He teaches Ravana the game of Sadurangam, the older version of Chess, and asks him to treat the virtual game as a real war and transfer his interest from real wars to Sadurangam.

There are also enough evidence that Bheema, the second among the five Pandavas used to play Chess with Hidimbi, his rakshashii wife as well as with Gatotkachan, his mighty son. 

Tamil Nadu and Chess

Though chess did not receive as much celebration and attention as it did with other sports like cricket or hockey, one cannot overlook the emphasis that the country, more particularly Tamil Nadu has given to Chess. The unsplit attention it calls for is a test of one’s patience and problem solving skills in a go. India has 74 grand masters, and out of them, a whopping 26 are from Tamil Nadu. The well-known Vishwanathan Anand, who lead the chess revolution in the last few decades is from Tamil Nadu. Also, the 73rd Grandmaster, Bharat Subramaniam, winner of the tournament that was held in Italy in January 2022,  is from Tamil Nadu. As much as Ilayaraja remains a significant household entity, chess has also become an essential part of households in the Tamil Nadu of today. Beyond, India’s first International Master, the first female Grandmaster, and the first International Arbiter are also from Tamil Nadu. 

Vishwanthan Anand’s success as a grand master invoked interest in the minds of the young to learn and play chess. The software evolution further steered the interest and it became an extracurricular activity that children learnt apart from academics. 

Tamil Nadu has a temple for chess

Tamil Nadu and its marvelous temples are a testimony to the ancient glory and heritage of the Tamil culture. Navagrahas, spiritual gurus, and a plethora of shrines and deities are found in each and every part of the state.

Did you know that 

Sathuranga Vallabhanathar Temple, a well-known temple in the Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu has a temple dedicated to the game of Chess?

The temple is one-of-its-kind in the world and this signifies the extraordinary connection that Tamilians have with chess. Lord Shiva is the key deity of the Sathuranga Vallabhanathar Temple, and he is seen here with Rajarajeswari Ambica, who was also a renowned chess player. 

History of Sathuranga Vallabhanathar temple

King Vasudevan ruled Tirunelveli. He and his wife were strong devotees of Lord Shiva. The couple did not have a child though they were happily married, and they prayed to Lord Shiva at the Nelliappar Temple. Lord Shiva was super impressed with their commitment and devotion, and made Parvathi Devi to be their child. On one fine morning when the couple were taking a dip in the holy Cauvery river and to their surprise a lotus flower was coming towards them. It had a conch and when the touched the conch it became a beautiful girl. The king was extremely happy and spellbound and named his daughter Rajarajeswari. 

She remained an extraordinary chess player since her young age. The king vowed that he would marry off his daughter to someone who defeats her in the chess. When none of the men could do them, Lord Shiva disguised himself to play with Rajarajeswari and finally won her. She was then married off to Lord Shiva and he came to be known as Sathuranga Vallabhanathar, meaning the Lord of Chess. 

FIDE Chess Olympiad in Tamil Nadu

The Sathuranga Vallabhanathar Temple has gained prominence as the state is hosting the 44th International Chess Olympiad. The temple and the Grand Masters Tamil Nadu has produced stands as a case of evidence for the historical significance of the Chess in Tamil Nadu. 

The FIDE chess olympiad kicked off with an extravagant opening ceremony enunciated by the Hon’ble Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Thiru M.K. Stalin at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. They were clad in Tamil attires and the Chess Champion Vishwanathan Anand handed the first-relay torch to Tamil Nadu CM M.K. Stalin. 

Mamallapuram has a rich heritage and the monuments here hold a historical significance The arrangements made received appreciation from people of all walks of life. Ample parking facilities are arranged. Road facilities are being improved and renovated if required. As an icing on the cake, the Tamil Nadu tourism department is operating free bus service for the public to visit the event. The Napier Bridge was painted black and white like a chess board and it set the chess fever on in Tamil Nadu. 

Being in the field of imparting Tamil language education to immigrants and people from other state to enable people take forward the Tamil culture to the next generation and helping them learn Tamil online, Powerkid Tamil Academy is extremely delighted to see Tamil nadu gaining a significant position in the Chess world. 

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