Ah, the hours whiled away on the Parcheesi board as a youth. I haven’t played the game in years, but I can still remember the sound and feel of the dice rattling in the leather cup, the chok-chok of the pieces hitting the board, the heated arguments over who moved and who didn’t, the utter disappointment when a rival won, and the sheer elation when one of my pieces roared down the red carpet leading to the inner chamber.
Parcheesi, also known as the Royal Game of India, is descended from the game of Pachisi, which originated in India around 500 BC. When played by Indian royalty on a specially prepared lawn on the palace grounds back in the day, slave girls were actually used as pawns and moved about the board by royal command. Though not quite as colorful, the red, blue, green and yellow plastic pieces used in the modern game are a little more practical, though not as much fun to lift.
Parcheesi is also a descendant of the ancient Cross and Circle games, whose boards were designed with mystical symbols in mind; in this case the layout includes a mandala showing Heaven and Earth, or the self surrounded by the four directions of the Universe. Could the hypnotic effect of staring for hours at a mandala have been used to initiate unsuspecting children into mysticism in the 1950s, bearing fruit only a decade later when we all became hippies and began painting similar mandalas on our VW busses? Mere coincidence? I think not. Someone should look into this.