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Vol. XXXII No. 22, March 1-15, 2023

Lost Leisure – The Mystery of the 48 Square Grid – Marundeeswarar Temple, Thiruvanmiyur

-- by Vinita Sidhartha

As we enter the East Coast Road from Thiruvanmiyur and drive south toward Mahabalipuram we see a beautiful temple gopuram on the left. This is the western entrance to the Marundeeswarar Temple, and you can almost miss it and never probably imagine what a beautiful temple lies within its walls. Once you enter the Marundeeswarar Kovil, preferably from the eastern side, you’re mesmerized by it. Unlike many other temples, it’s not so crowded and there is a calm and peace that pervades it. The quiet ripples on the temple tank after the rain, the soft breeze that blows in from the nearby sea, contribute to the ambience of the temple.

The Marundeeswarar Temple, Thiruvanmiyur.

As the temple is more or less untouched, we were fortunate to find a few game boards. Many were common boards seen in most temples, but what was very exciting was a board, 4 squares wide and 12 squares long totaling 48 squares. Right outside the Amman Sannadhi, it had been ignored, and some crowd control dividers had been placed carelessly over it.

I had to clear the area and wipe down the place to get a clear view of the board. The lines were deep and clearly visible to the naked eye. Numerous onlookers crowded around to understand what we were doing. Many of them had different theories as to what the board perhaps could be.

Some of them suggested it might be a board for a dice game and even demonstrated how it could be played. Others suggested it could be a version of pallanguzhi played by three people. Another person had a completely different theory and suggested that it was a calendar to mark of 48 days of puja that represented one mandalam – a requirement before opening the temple.

I had a few suspicions as I had seen something similar elsewhere, but the research takes a long time. We may never know the real answer. Is it a game board? Is it something more? Is it a grid on which someone started playing a game later? This is where the journey begins – the investigation to understand more about what this board probably could be. And perhaps we will find answers soon. Or perhaps they are hidden in the cobwebs of someone’s memories. If you know the answers do share it with us.

Keep reading, there are so many more puzzles, but to understand these, we need to preserve our games and protect our floors, for in them we could well have the answer to not just our questions on games, but much of human philosophy and thinking. To know more write to me at

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