Traditional Indian Games – Manjadi Kuru

Hello there!

Hope you are doing well.

Writing about Heidi in my previous post seems to have opened a gate from which memories from my childhood keep pouring out. One such memory is of Manjadi Kuru – shiny red seeds that I loved to collect and store as a child. I vividly remember the first time I saw it. It was one of the summers that I spent in Udupi – my maternal grandparents’ place. These red seeds, also known as good luck seeds were scattered below the Manjadi tree – some fully red, others red with little black spots.

Back then I did not know the significance of these seeds. I just loved collecting them because it felt like collecting precious rubies. The only use we knew of it was a local game that we called Gurpale in Konkani (popularly known as Pallanguzhi game). Having spent most of my childhood in Mumbai and Bangalore, traditional games like these felt exotic and I got excited every time this board was brought out. We played Gurpale, Kavade and many other traditional indoor games in the noon sitting on the verandah savouring seasonal fruits like mangoes and jackfruit or dishes (fritters and chips) made of these.

Image credit: ManjadiKuru Entertainment

Over the years, between changing homes and cities, I lost my collection (hoping to find it someday). But very recently on my visit to Pondicherry, I found the Manjadi tree outside a pretty little cottage in the French colony. It brought back a lot of memories. I could collect only a few, a little embarrassed to be seen crouching on the roadside picking out seeds from the mud. For several months, my hand itched to do something with it but I did not know what. I wanted it to be something I could keep in my showcase. So that every time I looked at it, it would remind me of those beautiful summers of Udupi.

I finally settled for a ‘Message in a bottle’ decor item using an old glass bottle and pieces of shiny net and thread. I replaced the fancy stars and glitter with the seeds. It now sits proudly in our showcase next to the little wooden box that I call a treasure chest of memories. It is often these little things that serve as memoirs of the beautiful times.

There are some interesting facts (as opposed to the boring Binomial name it has got) about these seeds. These are used in traditional medicines and drinks. Some claim that when a seed is cut open correctly, little carved animals like an elephant or a horse can be found inside. I am not really sure of this and do not wish to cut open one from the limited collection I currently have. But it does sound like an interesting fact.

Here’s a picture I found in this context.

Image credit: Palomar

There is also interesting folklore of how these seeds gained popularity in the state of Kerala. You can read the full story here.

That is all I have today. What are your favourite childhood games? Tell me in the comments.

Signing off,

Ashwini Shenoy

Some Traditional board games from India that you might like to try

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