Materialized by Mandira Pattnaik on Thursday, December 21st 2023.

Things to Know:

Pachisi, meaning “Twenty-Five,” is similar to games of love, has been played for millennia.

Pachisi has resemblance to board games from across the world, and is frequently confused with other similar diversions, that of seeking, persuasion, meeting, gathering and endearing.

There are no standard rules. The instructions are typical of a number of existing variants.


The game of Pachisi is played on a board with four arms that cross themselves. Several distinguishing marks form when they indulge. Or embrace, or kiss, or abandon, and finally end on squares called castles. The middle of the cross forms a large square called the Charkoni, where players are free to be themselves—just what God has made them to be, in existing what they are, in joy, in grief, in merriment, and also in ceaseless pain.

Boards can be of any material, although these days it commonly isn’t very strong, sometimes made from cloth, with the gaming pattern embroidered onto it.

Curiously, pieces are in four colors. But always numbering sixteen.

Any similarities to pairs of eyes, ears, lips, wrists, breasts, shoulders, hips and legs, also count of sixteen, purely coincidental.

Pachisi’s element of chance is provided by 6 small cowry shells that, when thrown, indicate an amount according to the following rules:

  • 2 cowries with mouths up - 2
  • 3 cowries with mouths up - 3
  • 4 cowries with mouths up - 4
  • 5 cowries with mouths up - 5
  • 6 cowries with mouths up - 6 + grace
  • 1 cowrie with mouths up - 10 + grace
  • 0 cowries with mouths up - 25 + grace
  • A grace is a special allowance which is a critical part of the game.

Note: Players of the game may use dice instead of cowries but this produces a different flavour to the game. Certainly not recommended.

Let instincts and nature dictate you. Because instincts and nature are time-tested. However, the traditional way of exploring and discovering is not always recommended, or chosen, in which case, there are more modern ways of texting, calling, chatting, conferencing, but that’s okay, everything is allowed.

Preparation and Objective:

The game is for players playing as partners. Partners position themselves opposite each other. To begin, the pieces are placed in the Charkoni. Each player throws the cowries—highest plays first, but the partners are equal, participating in reciprocation, exulting, and tasting the best that partnerships can offer.

You must constantly remember that Pachisi is a team game, and is only won when both partners have all eight pieces home. As with all true team games, working together is the key to winning. The objective is finding a way, whatever works.


Play may begin when partners decide. Or by throws of the cowry shells. To begin a turn, the player throws the cowries. The player moves a piece the number indicated. If a grace is thrown, the piece moved can be played out of the Charkoni onto the board, if desired, and the player is allowed another throw and so on. The chase and courting have begun.

The first piece to leave the Charkoni is important. More than one piece from the same side can occupy the same square. A piece is not allowed to finish on a castle square that is occupied by one or more opponent’s pieces.

Having similarities with a European game named Ludo, the rules govern that if a piece finishes on a non-castle square inhabited by one or more opponent’s pieces, then they are captured. Captured pieces are returned to the Charkoni from where they must start again with a grace. A player making a capture is allowed another throw of the cowries to be taken immediately.

Moving is not compulsory and a player may decide not to move having thrown the cowries. This is typically done in order to remain indulgent, content, or in the typical zone of a much too satisfied state.

Pieces finish the game by re-entering the Charkoni, having completed a circuit of the board. Completing what is started is highly recommended.


The rules to Pachisi itself vary from place to place, and some of its beauty is precisely because of that. The rules given above are chosen from amongst variations to be the most straightforward. Here are some alternative rules that are commonly played.

If the game seems too simple, the author recommends either using self-imposed variations, increase the skill level, or alternatively, try:

  • Seven cowry shells instead of six.
  • Use an aggressive approach for a change.
  • Or the docile, almost uninterested, posturing, just for fun.
  • Watch movies and videos to reignite passion for the game, or reframe rules.
  • Stop and start.
  • Play the game like it was the point of your life.
  • The playing partner you’re most comfortable with, will usually stay. If not, bring another.

Mandira Pattnaik's work has appeared in The McNeese Review, Penn Review, Best Small Fictions 2021, Bacopa Literary, Timber Journal, DASH, LampLight Magazine, AAWW The Margins, Citron Review, Watershed Review, and Passages North, among other places. Her stories have appeared in anthologies and been translated. She is the author of collections, "Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople" (2022), "Girls Who Don't Cry" (2023), and "Where We Set Our Easel"(2023). More about her can be found at