Present day Chess is a variation of Chaturanga which originated in India sometime in the 6th century or earlier. The Chaturanga was played on an 8×8 board called the Ashtāpada. The game shows the four fold division of the ancient Indian Army consisting of the Infantry, elephants, cavalry and chariots.
The Vinayapitaka, a Buddhist text that prescribes monastic rules for monks and nuns mentions that a convert should keep away from Ashtapada, while the Jain text Suyagadamga goes one step furthur and says that people should not even learn to play the game. There are references to chess like games in Mahābhārata and Vasavadatta, but it is Banabhatta‘s Harsha Charitha whcih has the earliest reference of Chaturanga.
The Maukhari ruler Sharva Varman had gifted the game of ‘chaturanga’ to his contemporary Persian ruler Khushrau-II in lieu of saltpetre (a variety of gunpowder).
A recent book ‘Kannauj, The Maukhari And Chaturanga — The origin of chess and its way from India to Persia,’ authored by Ranate, laid the foundation for further research. The Maukhari rulers used to play ‘chaturanga’ with 16 cabinet terracotta before venturing into military campaigns, said Eder. Even Banbhatta in his ‘Harshcharita’ had mentioned a game called ‘ashtapada’ similar to chess, he added.
Historical accounts say during the later Gupta period there was an Indian army school where cadets were taught about warfare through terracotta pieces on ‘ashtapada’, which was again the game of chess in its primitive stage, said Eder. [Origin of chess is UP]