|Other Names: Asoka-|
vāṭam, Sita-Lakshmi Āṭa,
Sita Āṭa, Sitāṭa
|First Description: Peter|
J. Claus, 1987
|Sowing: Pussa Kanawa|
|Region: India (Tamil|
Seethaipandi is a solitaire mancala played mostly by women in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The game's name refers to the goddess Sita Devi. The name Asokavāṭam ("asoka tree circle") is a reference to the fact that in Ramayama Sita was forced by his father Ravana to stay in Sri Lanka under an asoka tree. Then, she would probably, being alone, play Seethaipandi (or Sita-Lakshmi Āṭa).
This game is undoubtetly the same as Sitāṭa mentioned by Peter J. Claus in 1987, a game played among the Tuluva, although his rules differ from this account, because they were misexplained. Claus wrote that the rather monotonous play is considered an "appropriate way [for women] to while away the hours in the solitude of an empty house".
Sitāṭa is linked to popular stories and legends, such as the Tulu story of Maiyage and Maipage, while Seethaipandi is mentioned in the legend of Sita of the Ramayana.
In the case of Seethaipandi, all other mancala games played in the area are played clockwise, as it is, but in the case of Sitāṭa the other mancala games played around are played in a counterclockwise sense. Being an auspicious game, Sitāṭa is played in a clockwise sense, an auspicious direction. Sita is the epitome of virtue and Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and renewal. That after giving away the seeds from pit to pit in an auspicious direction you end up with what you start with is similar to the moral proverb: "What goes around comes around." This proverb is applied in India to the wisdom of generosity.
In any case, Lakshmi and Sita are all associated with virtue, renewal and wealth. The solitaire game of mancala, played mechanically, with no sense of competition involved in it (at least originally), is itself a metaphor of that morality. The board itself is regarded as sacred/auspicious and often covered with turmeric (auspicious) powder when stored. Claus has been told that royal families kept boards made of gold (auspicious) and thought that in this context it is associated with the wife (especially bride) of the family.
Seethaipandi was a displine of an interschool competition organized by Kreeda (a group which revives traditional games) and sponsored by The Hindu - Young World as part of its Newspaper in Education Programme. The tournament was held on March 1, 2002 at the Amethyst in Chennai and nine schools participated. The game was chosen because it is a "speed game", which "tests the child's reflexes and nimbleness". Another competition was in 2003.
Seethaipandi is played on a board made of two rows of seven pits. At the beginning there is one seed in the first pit of each row (from the left), two on the second, three on the third, and so on.
At the beginning the player takes all the seeds from a hole containing seven and sows them clockwise. When she has finished the lap, she takes the contents of the following hole and keeps on sowing this way, lap after lap.
After 105 laps the initial position will be reached again.
- Allirajan, M.
- Reviving Traditional Games. In: The Hindu Monday, Oct 06, 2003.
- Balambal Ramaswami, V.
- Pallankuzhi: A Traditional Board Game of Women in Tamilnadu. In: Retschitzki, J. & Haddad-Zubel, R (Ed.). Step by Step. Proceedings of the 4th Colloquium Board Games in Academia. Edition Universitaire, Freiburg (Switzerland) 2002.
- Balambal Ramaswami, V.
- Folk Games of Tamilnadu (Review). The C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation. Chennai (India) 2006. ISBN 81-901484-2-7
- Claus, P. J.
- Cenne (Mancala) in Tuluva Myth and Cult. In: Claus, P. J., Pattanayak, D. P. & Handoo, J. Indian Folklore II. Central Institute of Indian Languages Press, Mysore (India) 1987.
- Claus, P. J.
- Re: Cenne. E-mail to R. Gering, September 17, 2006.