Pachisi (Hindu pachis, twenty-five), the national table-game of India.
In the palace of Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri the court of the zenana is divided into red and white squares, representing a pachisi-board, and here Akbar played the game with his courtiers, employing sixteen young slaves from his harem as living pieces. This was also done by the emperors of Delhi in their palace of Agra.
A pachisi-board, which is usually embroidered on cloth, is marked with a cross of squares, each limb consisting of three rows of 8 squares, placed around a centre square. The outer rows each have ornaments on the fourth square from the end and the middle rows one on the end square, these ornamented squares forming 'castles', in which pieces are safe from capture. The castles are so placed that from the centre square, or 'home', whence all pieces start going down the middle row and back on the outside and then to the end of the next limb, will be exactly 25 squares, whence the name. Four players, generally two on a side, take part.
The pieces, of which each player has four, are coloured yellow, green, red and black, and are entered, one at a time, from the centre and move down the middle row, then round the entire board and up the middle row again to the home square. The moves are regulated by six cowrie shells, which are thrown by hand down a slight incline. The throws indicate the number of squares a piece may move, as well as whether the player shall have a 'grace', without which no piece, if taken, may be re-entered. A piece may be taken if another piece lands on the same square, unless the square be a castle. The object of each side is to get all eight pieces round and home before the opponents can do so.
See Games, Ancient and Oriental, by E. Falkner (London, 1892).
Being the entry for PACHISI in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.