Pallankuzhi, Pallanguli, or Pallakuli is a traditional two-player board game played by people of all ages. In Tamil, Pal means 'many' and kuzhi means 'pit,' a fitting description for this game which requires a board with many pits. In absence of a board to play on, rural women make pits in the mud to play. The pits contain shells, seeds, small pebbles, or semi-precious stones used as coins.
The board indicates the prosperity of the family. Rich family holds prestige in owning a pallankuzhi board in gold, silver, sandalwood, ivory or in other materials of value. Women from wealthy families play with original pearls or ruby stones as coins. Common people use tamarind seeds, cowry shells or pebbles as coins to play.
How to Play:
Pallankuzhi is played with a rectangular board that has two rows and 7 pits on each side and pebbles/coins. To begin, each pit is filled with 6 coins (the number of coins varies). The first player picks up coins from one of the pits and starts to drop them in an anti-clockwise direction in each succeeding pit. If the player reaches the last pit in the row, he/she continues on their opponent's side.
Once the last coin is dropped, player takes the coin from the next pit and continues playing in the same way. If the last coin falls into a pit where the next pit is empty, the coins in the pit beyond the empty pit are captured and stored by the player. The player continues playing from the next cup containing coins. If the last coin falls into a pit with two empty holes beyond, the player's turn comes to an end. The opponent now continues to play in the same way, taking coins from any of his pits and going around dropping the coins in a counter-clockwise direction. If, after dropping a pebble into a pit, the pit contains four coins; these coins are also captured by the player. The round is over when no coins remain.
In a variant of this game, the game continues after the first round. The players now take the coins from their stores and fill as many of their pits as possible with their coins. The winner of the first round will have a surplus of coins which are kept in his/her store. The loser of the first round will be unable to fill all of his holes. These unfilled holes are marked as 'rubbish pits.' In the next round, play continues as before, but without the 'rubbish pit' being included and the player which started second in previous round going first. During the game, if a player has enough coins to fill any of the 'rubbish pits' back, their status is removed and they are again used during play. The game is over when a player is unable to fill any pit with six coins at the end of a round.
This game is can be played quickly and helps to improve analytical skills as well as eye-hand coordination. Pallankuzhi also improves math in children as they are involved in rapid mental calculation.