Board games have always been a wonderful source of game mostly played by people for the purposes of finding a brilliant way of spending time with each other. Besides being considered as well-known varieties of indoor sports in India, board games are also a form of social sport played during free times at the family events that are always never ending in the country. Ludo and carrom have been the two top board games that are played with enthusiasm by masses of all ages in India. As time passes by, the plastic board game of Ludo may look worn out or can be teared to pieces by the mischievousness of toddlers when they become deeply upset on losing out to some cousin or peer of theirs. However, the thick and hardened plywood carrom board which may lie covered with dust in a forgotten corner of the house on not being taken out for months, can be cleaned and used for playing together with our loved ones whenever we wish so that we can have a gala time together. Due to the hard wooden structure of the carrom board, its durability remains high and can be used for playing on it for a good number of years. Unlike most board games that are mostly made out of plastic and have a high tendency to become damaged with the passage of time, the best thing about carrom is that its board cannot be broken by mischievous children when their tantrums get worse. During the 20th century and the early part of the 21st century, the playing of carrom as a form of indoor game among children was quite common in the house as the Internet hadn’t boomed to make everyone tech savy in those days. Besides children, the adults of every age found happiness in playing carrom. Therefore, family leisure times in the country always witnessed parents and children huddling together to spend some quality time with each other over the carrom board with squeals of laughter, teasings and shouts.
Apart from being an indoor game, carrom had also been converted to an outdoor sport in India eons ago. The weekend adda (gossiping sessions) in the corners of the roads in afternoons were religiously followed by many people with a carrom playing session. While the kids used to enjoy playing their own version of cricket matches after putting up chairs or sticks (set up innovatively together) as wicket stumps, the grown-ups always used to bring out large size carrom boards along with tables from someone’s house and would then huddled together to play it in groups. The playing of carrom was once the common desi way to strengthen the bonds with people whom we cannot meet every day. For this reason, social events of mass gatherings like marriages, baby’s rice feeding ceremony would often see bored people going away from the crowd in order to have a whale of time in an empty room with the carrom board which they manage to procure from somewhere. Meanwhile, the carrom board was always taken out from the corner of the house during free time by a family member to engage in some mindful activities with the rest of the people and kill boredom rather than indulge in idle gossip.
While there is no exact written record as to when the game of playing of carrom was first started, it is believed that it has its origins in India. The evidence of a carrom board with its surface made of glass being available in one of the palaces in Punjab’s Patiala makes it clear that this strike and rebound game was widely played by ancient aristrocratic families in India. To popularize the game of carrom across the world, the International Carrom Federation (ICF) was founded in 1988 in Chennai and its current head office is based in Zurich, Switzerland. The ICF is composed of a Congress (the supreme body & also the legislative body), Executive Committee (executive body), General Secretariat (administrative body) and Commissions assisting the Executive Committee. The organization has been holding international carrom matches like World Championships, ICF Cup and the World Cup. Besides being the most popular social game in India, carrom is highly played around the globe today. The organization has devised the rules of playing of carrom which are known as ‘Laws of Carrom’
The dimensions of a carrom board may vary in size. However, its design always remains uniform. The edges of a carrom board is bounded by a wooden frame of a suitable height which may range 1.90 cm to 2.54 cm. The width of the frames can be anywhere in between 6.35 cm to 7.60 cm. There are four holes –one in each – at the corners of the board which are known as pockets. These holes are covered with nets as the scores of carrom are determined when a disc falls in it. The centre circle in a carrom board is used to place the red disc which is known as the queen. The rest of the carrom men (the queen is also a part of carrom men) i.e. the black and white discs are placed in the outer circle, situated just near the centre circle. There is also a striker disc which is used to push the carrom men and the queen across the board to the pockets. While playing carrom, the striker is balanced in the Base Lines which are two parallel straight lines equally distributed across the four sides of the board. The base lines are closed by circles of 3.18 cm in diameter at both ends. Within this circle a portion of 2.54 cm in diameter are coloured in red. These circles are called Base Circles. To play carrom, a fine-grained powder made of boric acid is spread across the carrom board so that the discs can glide smoothly on it when a player hits it. A total of nineteen discs- nine black, nine white and the red queen- are required to play carrom. Each player has to get nine pieces in total in any of the four corners. The player who can put all the nine carrom men in the pockets wins the game. To win the game, a player need to grab the queen along with a black or white disc. However, if he / she put the red coin in the pocket but are not able to strike the rest of the carom men, then he / she can lose the jackpot (the queen) also.
Carrom board is a great game for boosting mental health. Apart from using the fingers for striking the carom men, there isn’t any other kind of physical labour required for playing this ancient tabletop game. Besides requiring a good level of concentration, it also helps players in analysing the best strategy to strike. Therefore, playing carrom is an excellent way to improve your analytical and decision-making skills. It also sharpens the hand eye coordination of a player. Moreover, carrom also helps to develop social skills such as communication, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying the company of others in the game. Although there are online versions of carrom available in this age of technology, nothing beats the pleasure of playing this game face-to-face with people. When a game helps in socializing and learning simultaneously, it has the capacity to be of great appeal to people for a long period of time.