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The Dharma Puzzle

Here is a game that could make the pathway to spirituality — fun. Devised by Nirankar S. Aggarwal, there are two games: One based on the story of the Ramayana and the other on the teachings in the Mahabharata

According to the Hindu tradition, the very utterance of the Lord’s name is prayer. That is why children are of ten given the names of God so that by calling them, man is actually calling out to the Lord Himself and adding to his spiritual treasury. Man also personalises the deity and, in turn, the name lends the person with many attributes. If this is to be true, An India map locates the epic geographically and many scenes from the Ramayana form the cover of the game. A large board has miniature paintings all along its border. It begins at the right hand side corner with the first square showing Brahma, Narada and Valmiki. The story begins with Narada and Brahma appearing before Valmiki and helping him to recognize poesy, entrusting him with the job of writing the Ramayana.

The next block shows the birth of the four princes, Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrugana. The third square shows Vishwamitra asking Dasaratha to send his sons to the forest while he performs the great yagya (fire ritual). Rama’s slaying of Tadaka, of the fight with Marichan and Subahu and finally the breaking of the bow at Mithila are the scenes that follow. Then come the festivities in Ayodhya due to the marriage celebration of Rama and Sita. Then comes the Ahalya episode, followed by Manthara creating mischief in Kaikeyi’s mind. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are exiled. Their journey through the forest leading to the abduction of Sita, the meeting of Rama with the monkeys, Hanuman’s search for Sita, finding her and finally the coronation are all picturised in 70 squares.

The illustrations are simple and yet traditional. The episodes in the story itself have been beautifully selected. To a person who has read Valmiki, it will seem like a lot of it is coming alive. Like an episode where demoness Singhika is said to capture Hanuman by catching his shadow. The detail is so charming that it captures a lot of the spirit of the original.

“I began researching for this in 1996 and it has taken me four years,” says Nirankar and one can well see the effort taken to present a cogent story, picking out the exciting parts and yet maintaining focus.

With the story on the board, the game begins. There are 2 dice, 6 game pieces, 72 Flower Cards, 64 Joy Cards, 12 Jewel Cards, 24 Fate Cards, 72 Valour Cards, 36 Sorrow Cards and 8 Rama-Sita-Lakshmana Cards. Six game pieces means that six people can play at a time. Each player chooses a game piece. The fate cards are to be piled up on the board. The rest of the cards are to be kept in a kind of a bank. With the rolling of the dice, the game begins. The score is determined by the difference between the marks on the two dice. If one dice has number 4 face up and the other has number 1 face up, then the score is 4 minus 1. The player hence moves three steps.

At certain places, the player receives a card. Like where fes-tivities are being celebrated in Ayodhya, the player gets a Joy Card if he or she reaches there. The Joy Cards express different kinds of joy. It could be merry-making, it could be feeling buoyant or it could be the joy emanating from a celebration. Each card has different words for the different kinds of joy thus expanding the child’s vocabulary.

In the very next square you get a Fate Card. This fate card is already piled on the board. Pick one and it captures a particular situation from the Ramayana, and therefore, dictates your fate. Like one card says that Hanuman was given the boon to live as long as the story of Ramayana is recited on earth and this Fate Card helps you escape the demon in square 44. In some squares you have to fight to move ahead. The instruction leaflet tells you what you have to do at each fight. Valour Cards are gained by winning the battles against the demons and here too the different forms of valour have been explored.

At the place when Sita gives Hanuman a jewel, you too earn a Jewel Card. Without a Jewel Card you cannot win, so you may have to take many rounds of the board before finishing the game. The instructions for winning a Jewel Card are given along with the game.

Then there are Flower Cards too. These are given by sages or celestial beings. They have botanical names, Hindi names and common names. A fourth idea in each card describes the emotion associated with the card as given by the Mother of Aurobindo Ashram. Like cotton represents material abundance and turmeric, peace.

The game is well presented and colourful. It is available at the shop in Aurobindo Ashram and is definitely worth its price.