Mancala World
Other Names: Pallam Kuzhi,
Pallanguzhi, Pallanguli,
First Description: Henry Parker,
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Pussa Kanawa
Region: India (Tamil Nadu),
Sri Lanka

Pallankuzhi (பல்லாங்குழி), also Pallam Kuzhi, Pallangulli, Pallankuli or Pallanguzhi, is according to Parker, Murray, Bell, Russ, Romariz Santos Silva, and de Voogt a particular mancala game played by Tamils in Southern India and Sri Lanka.

The word "pallankuzhi" is also used in Tamil according to Balambal Ramaswami as a generic name for mancala games that are mostly played by Tamil women in South India and northern Sri Lanka.

Pal means in Tamil "many" and kuzhi means "pit" and could literally be translated as many pits, a fitting description of the mancala boards used to play mancala games.

Pallankuzhi plays an important role in Tamil literature (see the Kriti below). There is even a film about women poets called "SheWrite", which has a famous Pallankuzhi scene.

The game is popular among children and older people. It is encouraged for children to learn to count and to improve the eye-hand coordination while playing.

In 2006, the Government Museum of Tiruchipalli District held a Pallankuzhi tournament for women.

Pallankuzhi is also played in Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Guyana and Singapore, with a sizable Indian population living in those countries.

"Her friends came in the afternoon after their hectic kitchen stints were over and they played pallankuli, using an elliptical wooden board with two rows, each having seven hollows to be filled with five counters. They fought, they cheated, they exulted over their hard-won victories and they wept their narrow losses."

P.A. Krishnan in: "The Tigerclaw Tree" (1998)


The Pallankuzhi board has 14 holes, each player controlling one row of seven. Initially six seeds, shells or small stones are put in each hole. In some regions just four or five seeds are used.


Initial Position (Six Seeds)

On his turn a player lifts the seeds from any of his holes and, going counter-clockwise, distributes one seed into the following holes.

After a player has dropped his last seed, he takes the seeds from the next hole and distributes them.

If the last seed falls into a hole with an empty hole beyond, the seeds in the hole following the empty hole are captured by the player and placed into his store.

Pallankuzhi Board

Play is continued if the next hole contains seeds. If the last seed falls into a cup, which is followed by two empty holes, nothing is captured and the turn is over.

If, after having a seed dropped into it, a hole contains four seeds, those are captured by the player who dropped the seed.

If a player has no seeds left to make a move, the round is over and his opponent captures the remaining seeds.

After the first round players take the seeds from their stores and fill as many of their holes as possible with them. The winner will have a surplus which is kept in his store. The loser of the first round will be unable to fill all of his holes. These unfilled holes are marked as "rubbish holes." In the next round the player who went first in the previous round is going second.

If, after a round, a player has enough counters to fill any of his rubbish holes back up their status is removed and they are again used during play.

The game is over when a player is unable to fill any cups with six counters at the end of a round.

Pallankuzhi Song

A Kriti

O Ruler of Ayodhya, of the inestimable form! 
I have the desire to listen 
To my hearts fill and my ears delight, your sweet speech 
That you and Sita and spoke with true love and understanding, 
Gazing at each other, when you played a game of Pallanguzhi 
With her and won, which was heard by Bharata and Hanuman. 
Note: In this Kriti (Hindu devotional music popular in southern India) Rama demonstrates the superiority of males by winning in the woman's domain.


Competitions for Women. In: The Hindu February 26, 2006.
Balambal Ramaswami, V.
Pallankuzhi: A Traditional Board Game of Women in Tamilnadu. In: Retschitzki, J. & Haddad-Zubel, R. (Eds.). Step by Step. Proceedings of the 4th Colloquium Board Games in Academia. Fribourg (Switzerland) 2002. -- Also published in: Kala : The Journal of Indian Art History Congress (New Delhi). 2000-2001; 7.
Balambal Ramaswami, V.
Folk Tales Games of Tamilnadu (Review). The C. P. Ramaswami Foundation Aiyar, Chennai (India) 2006.
Baskaran, S. T.
The Filming of Poetry. In: The Hindu January 1, 2006.
Bell, R. C.
Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations. Oxford University Press, Oxford (UK) 1960.
Durai, H. G.
Pallanguli: A South Indian Game. In: Man 1928 (11); 28: 185-186 .
Gangadhar, V.
The Antigua Connection. In: The Hindu June 18, 2006.
Krishnan, P.A.
The Tigerclaw Tree. Penguin Books India Pvt, New Delhi (India) 1998.
Murray, H. J. R.
A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess. Oxford University Press (UK) 1951.
Parker, H.
Ancient Ceylon: An Account of the Aborigines and of Part of the Early Civilisation. Luzac & Co., London (UK) 1909, 599-600.
Prasad, G.
Game with Pits Where You Fill and Don't Fall. In: The Hindu March 27, 2006.
Rohrbough, L. (Ed.).
Count and Capture. Cooperative Recreation Service, Delaware OH (USA) 1955.
Romariz Santos Silva, E.
Jogos de Quadrícula do Tipo Mancala com especial Incidência nos Praticados em Angola. Instituto de Investigacao Cientifíca Tropical, Lisbon (Portugal) 1995.
Varma, D. M.
Rustic Board Game Scores at Swiss Scholarly Meet. In: The Hindu September 20, 2006.
Voogt, A. J. de.
Mancala Boards (Olinda Keliya) in the National Museums of Colombo. In: Board Game Studies 2000; 3: 90-99.

External Links


Rules were adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Pallanguzhi", used under the GNU Free Documentation License

Other text: © Wikimanqala.
By: Víktor Bautista i Roca & Ralf Gering
Under the CC by-sa 2.5 license.