This was a good one to spot. Yesterday on my way back home, I found two girls playing ‘Pallanguli’. I remember my grandmother playing this game almost 2 decades back and I have not seen anyone play this game in a long-long time! Pallanguli is a number game played mostly by women in south India. A quick search tells me that men often play with for gambling purposes as well.

Although the game looks rather simple, it requires some very quick, on the spot number strategies.Do not be fooled by it’s simplicity : )

Pallanguli looks like an ice tray. there are 14 cups- 7 on each side. It is a 2 player game. The cups are filled with seeds. This is something I like about the game. You can use any small seed like object in the cups. My grandmother used to play with Tamarind or Melon seeds. The two girls I spotted choose to play it with red-beans.

Now the rules of the game are as follows:

  1. Place 6 seeds in each cup
  2. The first player starts by picking seeds form any of the cups from her/his side, dropping a single seed in each of the cups-anti clockwise.
  3. As the last seed is dropped in the cup, the player picks all the seeds from the next cup and continues dropping them in the cups around the board.
  4. If the player reaches a cup with four seeds, then she/he can gather them up along the way as well.
  5. If the player reaches a cup with a consecutive cup after the cup where they last drop their seed, then the play switches to the next person.
  6. The game is over when a player is unable to fill any of the cups with 6 seeds.

The game is quite fast paced and as I mentioned requires some very quick mathematical calculations. Play with a seasoned Pallanguli player and you will enjoy this game.

I really like this game for various reasons. It is very contextually relevant. It was designed keeping in mind the lifestyle that South Indian women lead pre Independence. It is affordable and easy to maintain.

  1. It is built very simply. It looks like two ice trays attached with hinges.
  2. It is cheap and affordable one can buy it quite easily, regardless their social-economic background.
  3. There are more ornate ones as well. I think my grandmother has one made of rosewood.
  4. You can use seeds or any small objects like beads to play this game! So it is never the case that you misplace one card/player, which makes the game redundant.
  5. It doesn’t take much time to play, so women could essentially play this game while cooking or running their household chores.
  6. And it improves your Math skills considerably.

Interestingly enough, the game has now be re-created for mobile devices as well as tablets!


2 thoughts on “Rediscovering old Indian games- Pallanguli

  1. Pingback: Grandparents' toys / Giraffe Theories

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