January-March 2003 issue
Sharika Bhagwati in Kashmiri
(Photo courtesy, Vitasta Annual, Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata)
The Game of Cowries
... Dalip Langoo
is a small molluscan seashell. In Kashmiri it means the money or a playing
object. It is an ancient game that Kashmiri Pandits used to play on the
eve of Maha Shivratri. We as children used to derive immense enjoyment
from the calculations involved in playing the game. Haar (Kaudi in Hindustani)
is the main component of the game and and the participants can number from two
to any limit. There are rules and regulations, to be followed by the players
very strictly, especially on the day of Salaam, which falls on the next day
after Shivratri pooja. The players gather in a room of the house. This was one
of the most popular indoor games known in Kashmir amongst Kashmiri Pandits.
Hardly anybody plays the game these days. But the memories of enjoyment it used
to give when we were children, the feeling of togetherness and love we used to
have and the excitement of winning the game are some things we always long for.
Haar (The Playing
Chaakh is the
measuring unit consists of four Haar’s,
Minimum of two Haars to start
Kunyi (Combination of
single Haar resulting the win),
Pushraan Dabu (To add
a Haar on a particular number as decided),
Juph Taaq (Even and
Odd combinations: In this odd numbers were to be won and even means
to pass on the game to next the player adding a Haar to the rest of Haars
of Four results the win),
Duchi (Combination of
Two results the win),
Shartal means the
Tichan means to strike
with one Haar another one, usually children play in this way. These are
the various ways of playing.
Botul (Yellowish Haar
with difference) or a Krend Haar (Broken Haar), Nich Haar (The
Small Haar), Vyeth Haar (The Big Haar) are some other different
shapes of Haar. Different Haars were used for toss purpose and these were
collected and thrown on the floor. This was the way to select the player who
plays it first.
Rules of the
All participants who know how
to play should maintain the decorum of the game and have patience while
When agreed to play any
particular type of the game, one should strictly follow the norms, didn’t
mix the tactics of another form of the play (No cheating please). One can be
disqualified on creating unnecessary discussions.
Whosoever should be capable of
playing and posses the Haar in plenty so that one can play. To own the Haar
is important because Haar is to be lost or won by a player. In our times we
had created a new system of counting points and at the end all the players
were given their Haars back by repurchase formula.
The duration of the game as in
other games is never set but it can continue till agreed duration by the
Each player should possess a
Botul a Haar with a different look so that one can find it easily to which
player it belongs, which will be used to decide the first member to start
The Botul was also used as
Joker in the cards.
Plane surface to be used to
make a throw of Haars on the floor.
A clean sheet of single color
also was used to make counting of Haar’s visible.
If there are more than two
people participating then a circle was to be formed and so on.
In case of two members they use
to sit opposite to each other.
In case of many participants a
bowl was used to collect the Haars.
The most competent person only
used to count the Haars thrown on the floor.
Everything was decided in the
beginning of the game as how and what to do by whom.
The job was divided amongst few
experts who were assisted by the player and a person sitting by his or her
This game was strictly played
on the eve of Shivratri locally known as Herath and not on any other
to play the Game
Kunyi: The game was
played with the help of a Haar, which is the only source of the game. There
should be four Haars compulsory to play it. In this game the Haars are taken
in the hand and thrown on the surface. Kunyi means a single odd number,
which confirms the win. If one doesn’t get this formation of numbers no
one is declared the winner. Only if the single Haar is fallen on the surface
upward down or vice versa the player is declared the winner. All the four or
more Haars, which one throws on the surface, belong to that particular
player. The game continues likewise till one accepts the defeat or one is
short of Haars.
Pushraan Dabu: Pushrawun
means to add. Even and odd number of the Haars is important in determining
the play towards winning. In this type each member contributes one or more
as decided to start the game. With all these the Haar’s thrown on the
surface are calculated and if the even number of Haars are upwards down then
one has to add to it one or as decided Haar and thus the game continues. If
one gets three upwards down it is called to be Chhout meaning ‘no
results’ so it was passed on to another player. Also if all the Haars fall
in their normal or upward down position in both the cases it is Chhout
meaning no results. In this too the game is passed on to the another player.
In case of Chhout by Three Haars one doesn’t have to add anything but pass
on to another player. In case of Chhout by another means one has to add a
Haar or Haar’s as decided and pass on the game to next player sitting in a
circle in clockwise direction. In case one gets odd one’s on the surface
these are to be considered won by the particular player except three Haars.
The game is carried on or if a single Haar is in opposite position upward
down or vice-versa the whole lot of Haars are won.
Juph Taaq: (Even and
Odd): This is similar to that of the above mentioned style but with little
difference that is in this odd numbers were to be won and even means to pass
on the game to next the player adding a Haar to the Haars on surface. In
this there is no three Haars- no result concept, those combinations are to
be won too. In this only if all the Haars fell in similar way then only
Chout, no result is considered.
Chaakan: (Combination of
Four results the win) In this it is decided in the beginning of the game
that only if combination of four fells on the surface all the Haars are
considered to be won. In this the contribution of each individual is to be
Duchi: (The Combination
of two decides the win) Similar as above but instead of four two determines
the game. There can be any number as decided for the game.
Shartal: (Means the
betting) In this two or more players bet and hide Haars in the hands the
opponent has to tell if there is even or odd number of Haars which decides
Tichan: means to strike
one Haar with another, usually children play in this way. Two Haars are
taken for play each in each player’s hand. The Haars are kept on the plane
surface and both strike the Haars one by one and if the Haars are touched
the win is declared. At the end whosoever won the maximum number is the
Hu Kus Bu Kus: In this
Children first play a game with the rhyme which is sung and then hands put
on the floor in a similar fashion are turned at the end of last word one by
one at each time the rhyme is repeated. It is already decided in the
beginning that whosoever will be the first to achieve it, will be given
Haaru Chaakh, four Haars by each participant. In this main thrust is being
given on the spiritual aspect and entertainment too as well.
The Haars were given to daughters
on the eve of Herath/ Shivratri when they returned from their Maalyun
(father’s house). Other games like Carom, Chess, Cards, and Ludo etc.took its
place and today it is hardly played anywhere. After exodus once I played it with
my Bua ji (Poph) at New Delhi, who remembered her childhood days and tears
appeared in her eyes that we have lost everything in Kashmir and similarly this
Gindun the playing of the game of Haars too! We might have lost everything but
not Buttill (the phenomenon of being a Batta as locally a Pundit is called in
Kashmir). If the game of 'Haaru gindun' is lost today it can be revived and we
can keep alive our traditions, which make us what we are.
I personally appeal to all
concerned to support the cause of Buttill that is being crushed at each
and every point, be it politically, socially, economically or in any other way.
But this is the high time for Kashmiris to collect all treasures and share them
to keep ourselves alive as Battas.