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Explanation of Chess and arrangement of Vin-Artakhshir.

Translation by J. C. Tarapore, Vijârishn I Chatrang, Bombay, 1932.

See also Czech translation, courtesy of Valeria Aleksandrova.

(1) It is said thus that during the reign of Khosraw of immortal soul1, Divsaram2, a great king of India, for the trial of the wisdom and knowledge of the Iranians and for securing his own benefit set up the game of Chatrang (or chess); 16 pieces were made of diamonds3 and 16 of red ruby4. (2) With that game of chess were sent 1200 camels loaded with gold and silver and jewels and pearls5 and clothes, 90 elephants which carried selected things came with them and Takhtritus6, who was the vizier among the Indians, came with them.

1. Anôshak rûbân, "of immortal soul." This later on became the title of the great King Khosraw, who is better known as "Anosherwan the Just.'' In the Shah Nameh Firdausi always refers to him as Naushirwan.

2. This name must be formed of two parts Div and Sâram. Div was the general appellation prefixed to the names of all alien kings and warriors, against whom the Iranians waged wars. In the Shah Nameh the great hero Rustom is described as having fought and vanquished a number of Daevas who were a terror in different countries near Iran. The second part Sâram may be the same as the name Sharma even now used as a proper noun in some parts of northern India. The Pahlavi text leaves us in the dark about the principality to which this King of the Hindus belonged. Firdausi in his Shah Nameh throughout refers to the monarch who sent the game of Shatranj to Iran as Râe Hendi. In the following line he is even referred to as the Râe of Kanouj. The late Dastur Dr. Darab Sanjana believed this king to be the same as King Dabishlun of the Persian text, the Anwar-i-Suhaili, (Vide his Introduction to the Karnama i Artakhshir I Papakan, p. XIV.)

3. Aôzambûrd, Dasturji Peshotanji derives this word from Chald. "very precious" and Pers. "a stone", to mean "a diamond", "a gem".

4. Jâkand, Cf. Pers. "ruby" or "ruby-colored."

5. Mûrvarid, Cf. Pers. "pearl.''

6. This name is doubtful. As read by Dasturji Peshotanji, which reading is here adopted, it does not sound to be an Indian name. In the Shah Nameh, Firdausi has not furnished to us the name of the messenger sent by the Indian King to Persia. Mr. B. T. Anklesaria reads it as "Tâtritvas."

(3) In the letter it was written thus, "As your name is the King of Kings, all your emperorship over us connotes that your wise men should be wiser than ours. Either you send us an explanation of this game of chess or send revenue7 and tribute8 to us." 7-8. Sîk bâz: Cf. Pers. "tribute" (particularly of oxen demanded from a vanquished foe) and "revenue,'' "tribute.'' Firdausi has interpreted this in these line, ....
(4) The King of Kings asked for 4 days' time, and there was nobody among the wise of the country of Iran who could explain that game of chess.
(5) On the third day Vazorgmitro, son of Bôkhte, stood up on his legs. (6) He said, "Be thou immortal! for this reason I did not expose the explanation of the game of chess till this day so that you and those who are from the country of Iran should know that I am wiser than any man in the country of Iran. (7) I shall solve the game of chess easily and secure revenue and tribute from Divsaram and I shall prepare another thing and shall send it to Divsaram which he shall not be able to solve and I shall exact double the tribute from him; and be you sure of this that you deserve the emperorship, and the wise men here are wiser than those of Divsaram.'' (8) The Emperor thrice said, "O Vazorgmitro! my Takhtritus, may you live long." He ordered 12000 jôjans9 to be awarded to Vazorgmitro. 9. Jôjans must be the name of a coin used during the Sasanian times.
(9) Next day Vazorgmitro called Takhtritus before him and said, "Divsaram made this game of chess like war. (10) He made the two generals like the Kings (who are) essential for the left and the right10, the farzin11 to resemble the chief of the warriors, the elephant12 to resemble the chieftain protecting the rear, the knight13 to resemble the chief of the horsemen, (and) the pawns to resemble the foot-soldiers who lead in battle." (11) After this Takhtritus arranged the game of chess and played with Vazorgmitro and Vazorgmitro thrice defeated Takhtritus and thereby great joy prevailed in the whole country. 10. Firdausi remarks about this as follows: ....

11. Farzin: the piece which is now named Queen in our modern game of chess. The old name is still used in India by chess players.

12. This piece is the castle or rook in chess as now played. The piece has, however, changed its position on the board. In the old game of Chatrang it occupied a position next to the King and Queen and is hence mentioned in our text immediately after the Farzin. It now occupies the last corner square on the board on either side at the beginning of the game. This square was in Chatrang given to the Roka or ship, which had moves peculiar to itself. At some later date a double transposition took place. The "elephant" and the roka exchanged positions, one going in the other's place. The pieces retained their moves but changed their titles. The "elephant" assumed the name of roka which it had displaced and is now called the Rook in Europe though it retains its old name in India. The roka of India is now called the Bishop in Europe and has assumed the name of the camel in India (called "Camel" in the Shah Nameh). Somehow in our Pahlavi text there is no reference to this latter piece at all. At 16 pieces are mentioned in the earlier part of the text this might be due to oversight or the omission of a later copyist of the original Pahlavi.

13. The "horse". The piece is known as Knight in chess.

(12) Then Takhtritus rose on his legs. (13) He said, "Be you immortal! The Creator has given you this greatness and glory and courage and victory and made you the lord of Iran and non-Iranian countries. (14) Several wise people of the Indians prepared this game of chess after great toil and trouble and sent it to this place and none could solve it. (15) Your Vazorgmitro through his innate wisdom explained it easily and quickly14. (16) He has thus by this wealth increased the treasures of the Emperor." 14. Firdausi puts the following words in the mouth of the messenger from India: ...
(17) The next day the Emperor called Vazorgmitro before him. (18) He said to Vazorgmitro, "O my Vazorgmitro! what is that thing you said you would devise and send to Divsaram?"
(19) Vazorgmitro said, "Among the monarchs of this millennium Ardashir was the most industrious and wisest and by the name of King Ardashir I shall call the game Vin-Artakhshir15. (20) 1 shall make the board of the Vin-Artakhshir like the earth Spandarmad. (21) And 30 pieces I shall make like the 30 days and nights, I shall make 15 white to resemble the day and 15 black to resemble the night. (22) The turning of the board I shall make like the revolution of the stars and the rotation of the sky. (23) I shall make one of these revolutions like Ohrmazd who is one and from whom is granted all goodness. (24) Two I shall make to resemble the spirit and earthly matter. (25) Three I shall make to resemble good thoughts and good words and good deeds, and thought and word and action. (26) Four I shall make to resemble the four elements of which man is made, and the four points of the earth: east; and west, south and north. (27) Five I shall make to resemble the live lights of the sun and the moon and the stars and fire and the lights which come from the heavens. (28) Six I shall make to resemble the 6 periods of the Gahambars16. (29) I shall make the arrangement of Vin-Artakhshir on the board to resemble the creation of the creatures by Ohrmazd on this earth. (30) I shall make the movements and the progress in a circle of the pieces to resemble the movements of men in this world whose intelligence is connected to spiritual (powers), and who turn and pass on17 under the influence of the seven (planets) and the twelve (signs of the Zodiac), and when possible they smite and overcome one another just as men in this world smite one another. (31) And when during the progress of this revolution all the pieces are overcome, they shall be like the men who pass away from this earth, and when they are rearranged they resemble men who become revived at the time of the resurrection [Frashegird]. 15. The description of this game as given in the present text leaves us uncertain as to whether the game at all became popular in ancient Iran. But we find that the game is mentioned in Pahlavi texts along with "Chatrang" and the knowledge of the two games was regarded as essential in the education of princes; Vide Khusru i Kavatan va Ritak-i § 15, and Karnamak i Artakhshir I Papakan, Chap. I, § 30. If we accept the origin of this game as given us our present text to be correct, the statement in the Karnamak that the young Ardashir became proficient at the game of Vine-Artakhshir must be regarded as an anachronism. In the Shah Nameh there is no mention of this game but another game called nard is said to have been invented by Vazorgmitro and taken by him to India. The descriptions of the two games as found in the respective texts are quite different.

16. The six bi-monthly festivals observed in Iran of old and even now celebrated by the Parsis in India.

17. Vehizend: Dasturji Peshotanji reads the word nehipend, and interprets it to mean "move retrogressively (said of a planet)". In Denkard Book 3, the word vehizakik is used several times with reference to the day or the period to be added to the year to make up the solar year. In his Persian translation of the Pahlavi text of Vijarishn i Chatrang Dastur Khudayar Dastur Shaharyar Irani, 1899, reads the word vehizend and repeating in his Persian translation the same word in Persian characters notes on the margin ... i.e., "Vehizend meaning 'return'. The origin of this word is doubtful." If we derive the word from veh, "good," "better," the verb may mean "make good," "make better," "improve," "progress." In the present context it is used to indicate the influence of the planets and the signs of the Zodiac. The preceding verb vardend (lit. "turn") refers to the retrograde movement in planetary influence, while vehizend connotes the onward or progressive movement.

(32) The King of Kings when he heard these words became pleased and ordered 12,000 Arab horses of the same hair, head to foot decked with gold and pearl, and 12,000 young selected men from the country of Iran, 12,000 seven plated armors18, and 12,000 well-shapen steel swords Indian forged, 12,000 girdles seven-eyed 19, and besides all the 12,000 men and horses were adorned like children adorned. (33) Vazorgmitro of Bokhte was made the leader over them and on an auspicious day with the good gift and help of God he went to India. 18. Zareh, "armor". Av. zrât. Cf. Pers. zrh.

19. These eyes in the girdle may be the sockets for swords, daggers, etc., which were required in the belt.

(34) Divsaram, the great King of the Indians, when he saw that game asked for 40 days' time from Vazorgmitro, the son of Bokhte. (35) There was nobody from among the sages of India who could understand the explanation of that Vin-Artakhshir. (36) Vazorgmitro next got subsidy and tribute from Divsaram and with good presents and great honor he returned to the country of Iran.

(37) The explanation of chess is this that even as the wise with power have said that victory is attained through wisdom so the essentials of this game must be known through wisdom.

(38) The play of chess is this that by watching and striving to keep watch over one's own pieces one should be more industrious so that the power of the other player may be taken away, and not to play a bad game in the hope of taking away the pieces of the other player, and while using a piece and preserving the others and observing with perfect mind and in other respects one should observe the rules as given in the treatise.

Completed with satisfaction and joy.

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