Traditional Board Games


The rafaya board.
The rafaya board.

This Indian game, called demala diviyan keliya in Sri Lanka, pits three tigers against fifteen dogs. Its board is shaped like a triangle with arms projecting from two of the sides. The tigers have to kill the dogs, while the dogs have to blockade the tigers so that they cannot move. It is played in much the same way as the smaller game pulijudam.

History of Pulijudam and Rafaya

Throughout southeast Asia there are a number of “hunt” games played on triangular boards. Two games, called pulijudam and rafaya, were played throughout India, still being popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. Often known in English as the tiger game, it has also attracted the names lambs and tigers and the leopard game.

In pulijudam, as in similar games, the sides are different: one side consists of the prey, while the other side has more numerous but less powerful hunters. The hunters must capture the prey, while the prey must see off the hunters. Rafaya is a development of pulijudam played on a bigger board.

Rules for Pulijudam and Rafaya

Rules for Pulijudam and Rafaya
Pulijudam is played on the points of the board shown in the diagram, one side having three tigers and the other having fifteen lambs. On some boards there are arcs instead of the horizontal lines shown here, but this does not affect the way the game is played.

1. The game begins with the tigers placed on the board as shown in the diagram.

2. The lambs make the first move.

3. In the lambs’ turn, a lamb is placed on any desired point on the board.

4. No lamb may be moved while there are still lambs waiting to be placed.

5. In the tigers’ turn, a tiger may be moved from its current point, along a marked line, to the adjacent point, in any direction.

6. Once all the lambs have been placed, a lamb may instead be moved in the same way as a tiger.

7. A tiger may, instead of moving to an adjacent point, capture a lamb by leaping over it onto the vacant point beyond.

8. The tiger may not change direction during a leap, it must jump over only a single lamb, and it may make only one such leap in its turn.

9. Lambs may not leap over tigers. Winning the Game

10. The lambs win the game by confining the tigers such that no tiger may move in its turn.

11. The tigers win the game by capturing so many lambs that their task is no longer possible.

In Sumatra, a game called meurimüeng-rimüeng-do uses the same board, but has five tigers facing fifteen sheep.

A larger board is used with three tigers and fifteen “dogs” in a game called rafaya in India or demala diviyan keliya in Sri Lanka. The board looks similar to Pulijudam, but the arms are extended by a column on each side, adding six extra positions in total. The larger board makes the game last somewhat longer than pulijudam.


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