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This page is written by the game's inventor, Luiz Campos.

Ramayana Chess

(a submission to the 84 square contest)


Ramayana, the great Indian epic fought millennia ago throughout Asia (Thailand, Sri Lanka…) is considered by some the greatest epic of all time, and by others a historical fact. This chess variant is inspired in that myth, bringing (hopefully) a little flavor of that mythology so unknown in the West.

Mind you, this is not a historical chess variant. Indian chess, Chaturanga, is described elsewhere.

Objective of the Game

Checkmate the opponent’s Rajah, or capture all of the opponent’s pieces besides the Rajah, or stalemate the opponent’s Rajah.


This variant uses one 16x4 board (64 squares), two 2x1 boards (4 squares), two 2x2 boards (8 squares) and two special foursquare boards (8 squares), totaling 84 squares. The boards’ positions relative to one another and the pieces’ starting positions are shown in the following illustration.


B = Brahmin

W = Swami

R = Rajah

D = Devapala

Y = Yavana

M = Muni

I = Singh

H = Shikari

U = Untouchable

K = Rakshasa

The 16x4 board is named ‘India’, all others are part of the ‘Indic Ocean Archipelago’.

The boards are checkered in dark green and teal, and one player uses a yellow set of pieces, while the other uses a red set of pieces. There are also two neutral orange pieces.

Observation: the white squares are not part of the board. They are only featured to indicate the relative positions of India and the Indic Ocean Archipelago boards. No piece can, for example, move to a white square, but they can jump such squares as long as they end their movements on a board.

The Pieces

The Rajah – ‘Leader’. The royal piece. It moves as a standard chess King (WF). Upon reaching the enemy Rajah’s starting square, the Rajah is promoted to a Maharajah.

The Maharajah – ‘Greater than great leader’. A promoted Rajah, still a royal piece. Besides moving as a standard chess King, can also move as an Alfil (2,2 jump; WAF).

Untouchable – The lowest caste. Moves as a standard chess pawn. Upon reaching the last row of the board, it must be dropped in any empty, unthreatened square on any Indic Ocean Archipelago board, if there is any. It can’t move afterwards, but it can capture as a Ferz (0,1 jump). If there is not, consult the section Illumination, below.

The Brahmin – A shaman. Combines the movement of Ferz, Alfil and Dabbabah (0,2 jump) (FAD).

The Swami – Something like a wizard. Combines the movement of Dabbabah, Alfil and Knight (DAN).

The Devapala – A warrior-monk. Moves as a Giraffe (1,3 jump), Knight and Ferz (KFG).

The Yavana – Fierce, wild warrior. Moves as a Giraffe plus Wazir (0,1 jump) (GW).

The Muni – A meditative monk. Combines Wazir and Dabbabah (DW).

The Singh – A skillful warrior. Combines Ferz and Knight (FN).

The Shikari – Master of the wilderness. Combines Knight and Alfil (AN).

Rakshasa – An evil tiger-headed spirit, bearer of dangerous karma. Moves as a jumping bishop (any x,x jump).

The Buddha – ‘Illuminated’. Moves as a jumping rook, that is, any (0,x) jump.

General Rules

Yellow always moves first. There is no pawn double move, the promotion rules are different (as explained in Rajah and Untouchable piece descriptions), and there is no en passant and no castling.

Any player with a piece adjacent to a Rakshasa can move the Rakshasa as if it belonged to him. That piece (adjacent to the Rakshasa) is captured, however, unless it is a Rajah or Maharajah.

Rakshasa Respawn

If, at any time, there are less than two Rakshasas in game, and at least one of the Rakshasa starting squares is empty, and there are no Buddhas on any board, drop captured Rakshasas on these squares until these conditions are no longer fulfilled.

This is automatic, and does not spend a move.


If an Untouchable reaches its last rank and there isn’t a single empty unthreatened square in the Indic Ocean Archipelago boards, a very unlikely but possible situation, it is promoted to a Buddha.


Q: The victory conditions state “checkmate Rajah”, “stalemate Rajah” etc. Does this mean that promoting your Rajah to Maharajah makes you invincible?

A: That is a rather literal reading of the rules. Since the Maharajah is still a royal piece, it’s still subject to checkmate, stalemate and the other victory conditions.

Q: Does the Rakshasa ever move by itself?

A: No, neutral pieces don’t have moves of their own.

Q: Explain better how to move a Rakshasa.

A: First, choose one of the pieces you own adjacent to the Rakshasa. You must have at least one to move him. Then, make a Rakshasa move (an x,x jump, effectively ignoring any pieces in its way). The piece you chose is now removed from the board, unless it was your Rajah or Maharajah.

Q: Can a Rakshasa give check?

A: Yes, and this is quite important. Whenever a player has a piece adjacent to a Rakshasa, the enemy royal piece is checked if it’s in one of the Rakshasa’s diagonals, ignoring obstruction of any kind.

Q: Can a Rakshasa be captured?

A: Yes.

Q: Can more than one Untouchable be promoted to Buddha in a game?

A: Yes, but it is very unlikely.

Written by Luiz Carlos Campos.
WWW page created: November 13, 2002.