Mancala World
Other Names: Cenne
Mane, Chenne, Chenne
First Description: Peter
J. Claus, 1986
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: India (South

Cenne (literally "beautiful" in Tulu) is a mancala game of the Tuluva in Southern India with several unusual game mechanisms, some of which remind of the totally unrelated Ethiopian game of Lamlameta. It was first described in 1986 by the ethnologue Peter J. Claus, professor at the State University of California at Hayward (USA).

The game plays an important role in the Siri cult of South Kanara. It is prohibited to play the game after the rice seedlings (neji) are in the growing fields and up to harvest time. There is an old custom in the Bant caste of playing the game by the male head's of the boy's and girl's families during the marriage negotiation ceremonies (niscaya). It is regarded a good omen if the girl's party loses. The game is also often associated in Siri legends. Another prohibition is to lend out the board overnight and gambling. More prohibitions concern the players. Sisters are not permitted to play the game together (not even classificatory sisters, e.g. a woman with her husband's sister), nor are brothers (including classificatory brothers, e.g. mother's brother and sister's son), nor husband and wife. The game is not normally played among men except in association with marriage alliance. The social prohibitions coincide with an asymmetrical relationship within families characterized by potential feelings of jealousy, competition, aggression and self-interest which could destroy the strength and unity of a matrilineal family.

The Cenne board is usually made from hard, dense wood such as rosewood or ebony. The counters are the small seeds of the arnotto tree (Bixa orellana), the coral tree (Erythrina caffra) or cowrie shells.

There were Cenne tournaments in Mangalore and Udupi in recent years.


The board called mane has 14 holes (variously called guri ("pit"), illu ("house") or kone ("room")) arranged in two rows and two larger hollows at either end used for storing captured seeds. Each player owns the store to his right.

Initially there are four seeds (parelu or kayi) in each hole.


Initial Position

On his turn a player distributes the contents of one of his holes in the ensuing holes, one by one, in a counterclockwise direction.

If the last seed falls into an occupied hole, its contents are lifted for another lap.

During a move a seed may not be dropped into a hole containing three seeds (called murte) unless the player has just one seed seed in his hand.

  • In rare circumstances all holes may have three seeds. If the player still has one or several seeds in hand, he puts these in the hole to his far right (called atappe ("heap")) without capturing them. The opponent then takes the three seeds from his heap and drops one of them in his opponent's heap, another one in that hole from which he removed the seeds and the last one in the next adjacent hole on his side, giving it four seeds, which he then captures, thus ending the move.

If the last seed is sown into an empty hole of the opponent's row and thus becomes a singleton, it is called jeppe ("sleeper"). The opponent may not start his next turn with the jeppe hole.

If the last seed in hand is placed into a murte, its contents will be a wanasu ("meal"), that is, all four seeds will be captured and placed in the player's store.

After that the player continues his move by distributing the seeds of the following hole.

The move ends when the last seed is placed in an empty hole, the hole following a wanasu is empty or after an atappe play.

The game is played until a player can demonstrate at his turn that in four consecutive draws he does not have to place a seed in any of his opponent's holes. That player wins the seeds that are still remaining on the board.

The player who captured more groups of four wins the round.

The successive rounds are played by filling the holes on the player's side with his winnings. Holes that cannot be filled are not used in the next round. It is possible, albeit difficult, to reconquer lost holes. Seeds that are not used in the round are stored as if they were captures.

The game is over when at the beginning of a round a player can fill less than four holes. The phrase to claim victory is poli maipunu ("plunder").

Cenne Problem


South to play and to win.

External Links


Appadurai, A., Korom, F. J. & Mills, M. A.
Gender, Genre, and Power in South Asian Expressive Traditions (South Asian Regional Studies and Publications of the American Folklore Society). University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA (USA) 1991, 168-171.
Claus, P. J., Diamond, S. & Mills, M. A.
South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Routledge, New York NY (USA) 2003.
Claus, P. J. 
Playing Cenne: The Meanings of a Folk Game. In: Blackburn, S. H. & Ramanujan, A. K. (Eds.) Another Harmony: New Essays on the Folklore of India. Oxford University Press, Oxford (England) 1986, 265-293.
Claus, P. J. 
Cenne (Mancala) in Tuluva Myth and Cult. In: Claus, P. J., Pattanayak, D. P. & Handoo, J. Indian Folklore II. Central Institute of Indian Languages Press, Mysore (India) 1987.
Handelman, D. & Shulman, D. D.
God Inside Out: Śiva's Game of Dice. Oxford University Press, New York (USA) & Oxford (UK) 1997, 33-34.
Honko, L. (Ed.)
The Siri Epic as Performed by Gopala Naika. Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia / Academia Scientiarum Fennica, Helsinki (Finland) 1998.
Nayak, A.
A Play With Tradition. In: The Hindu September 15, 2007.

Solution to the Cenne Problem

1. 4(+4)! (A) ad libitum
2. 5-6-4-5! South proved that he could play four-times without feeding North and thus captures the remaining seeds.

A: If 6(+4)??, North wins:

1.... 5!
2. ad libitum and whatever South did, now it is North who has four non-feeding moves.


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By: Ralf Gering
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