THE ART OF THE COSMIC ORDER AND THE
The board on which the Art of Asba is enacted represents the universe,
woven out of Time, Space, Force and Matter. According to ancient Sumerian tradition, the Creator
created the universe by sixteen Successive move ments until it was divided into
Light and Darkness. The symbols, of which there are sixteen on either
side, stand for the natural and cosmic forces - both positive and negative -
framework of the Universe. They symbolize die Zarathustrian cosmology,
just as the hoard represents its cosmogony.
The purpose of the Art of Asha
is to teach and illustrate the perpetual struggle going on between the positive
and negative forces in the universe, a battle of opposing forces which gives
birth to life. The positive forces of Light - represented by Ahura-Mazda and his
army, and the negative forces of darkness by Ahriman and his army.
THE BOARD AND ITS SYMBOLS
ASHA is played on a board of
sixty-four squares, alternately light and dark in color, which are commonly referred to as “white” or “black.”' The
horizontal rows of squares are called ''ranks'' and the vertical rows ''files.''
The board is set between the players so that there is a white square at the
right end of the first rank next to each player.
Each of the two players has
sixteen symbols at his command. Ahura Mazda, the Creator, has with him in his
army seven other Ahuras or creative cosmic forces – making eight in all –
and eight Fravashis or forces of nature. These are the symbols of the positive
forces in the Zarathustrian system of
In the opposing army of
Ahriman are the shadows of each of the positive symbols in Ahura Mazda's army.
These are the unfriendly and destructive cosmic forces-the "black"
symbols on the board. Eight of them are called Devas and are the shadows of the
Ahuras, while eight are called Khrafstras and are the shadows of the Fravashis.
These thirty-two symbols are set on the board as shown in the illustration, with
the Ahuras and Devas in the first rank on either side of the board. The
Fravashis and Khrafstras, the lesser forces of each army, are set in the
second rank-from the viewpoint of each of the players.
The symbols for the positive
and negative forces are the same in form and outline, but those of Ahura Mazda
are white, while their shadows, the army of Ahriman, are black. However, each
black symbol has its own name and is not known by the name of its white
counterpart in the army of Ahura Mazda. Thus the shadow of the Creator is called
the Destroyer, the shadow of the Preserver is the Spoiler, etc.
The symbols of the Ahuras, the
invisible creative forces in the army of Ahura Mazda, occupy the first rank on
their side of the board. They consist of, first, the Creator and the Preserver,
which occupy the two center squares on the first rank of the "white"
end of the board; the Preserver always occupies a square of its own color, as
does its shadow, the Spoiler. The Creator and the Preserver (and their
opposites) are distinguished from each other by the moves they may make during
Flanking the Preserver is
Wisdom and flanking the Creator is Eternal Life. Wisdom and Eternal Life move in
the same manner and are of equal rank. Respectively flanking them are Love and
Work, another pair of equal rank and subject to the same rules. Power and Peace
occupy the left and right corner squares: they move in accordance with the same
rules and restrictions.
The Fravashis, the visible forces of nature, are
set on the second rank of Ahura Mazda's side of the board. From left to right,
they are as follows: Sun, Water, Air, Food, Man, Earth, Health, and Joy. These
symbols form a group, all members of which move under the same rules and are
subject to the same restrictions.
The Devas and Khrafstras - the shadows of the
sixteen positive symbols - are placed in like manner at the opposite end of the
board, occupying the same files as their counterparts. Each shadow is of equal rank
with its counterpart and follows the same rules and is subject to the same
While the object of chess, the distant descendant of the Art of Asha, is to overcome and capture the opposing king, so that he has no hope of escape (called "check-mate '), the object of ASHA is quite different. While one side or the other may well arrive at "checkmate," it is the drama of Life itself the endlessly fascinating and eternally evolving battle of opposing forces that is the real "object." The microcosmos of ASHA teaches the players how to cooperate with the positive forces of Light in order to overcome the negative forces of darkness, and it is in the learning of these important lessons that the real object of ASHA is realized, regardless of which "side" a player may be on at the time.
THE SYMBOLS MOVE
The two players
"move" one of their symbols alternately. in one case only, to be
explained later, may they move two symbols at the same time. A move consists of
changing the position of a symbol by moving it from one square to another. The
player fighting Ahura Mazda's battle always has the first move. Passing up a
move is not permitted.
Symbols may only be moved over unoccupied squares and must come to rest
either in an unoccupied Square or in one occupied by a symbol of the opposing
army. Exceptions to this are the symbols of Love, Work and their shadows, Hatred
and Idleness, which can leap over their opponents in the manner described later.
A player who has touched one
of his opponent's symbols with the intention of taking it must take it if it can
legally be taken. If he touches one in order to adjust it, he must say "I
adjust." When a player takes his hand off a symbol he has moved, then the
move is complete and he cannot put the symbol back where it came from.
One symbol captures (x) another by being moved
into the square occupied by the latter. The captured symbol is removed from
the board and the capturing symbol occupies its square. Capturing is optional
unless the Creator or Destroyer is threatened, in which case it is compulsory.
MOVES OF THE AHURAS AND DEVAS
The Creator and his shadow,
the Destroyer, move in accordance with rules applicable to them alone.
Similarly, the Preserver and her shadow, the Spoiler, move under rules peculiar
to them alone, enjoying more freedom than any of the other symbols on the board.
The remaining six Ahuras and
their six shadows fall into patterns of four, each pattern consisting of two
Ahuras and the two corresponding Devas. The two Ahuras of a pattern are always
in the same position relative to the left and right edges of the board, while
their shadows are always in the same file at the opposite end of the board. The
symbols forming a pattern also operate under the same rules and are subject to
the same restrictions.
Thus, Power and Peace move in
accordance with the same rules and occupy the left and right corner squares of
the first rank, and their shadows move in the same way and occupy the corner
squares at their end of the board. Love and Work, moving under a different rule,
stand just inside
Power and Peace. Wisdom and Eternal Life, governed by
still different rules of movement, take the squares third from the outer edge of
The symbols are grouped into patterns (determining their position in relation to each other and their rules of movement) as follows:
MOVES OF POWER AND PEACE AND THEIR SHADOWS
Power, Peace, Weakness and Violence can move either horizontally or vertically, forward or backward, in one direction at a time, along any rank or file in which they happen to stand at the time of the move, provided that no other symbol of their own army obstructs the path. If an opposing symbol stands on the square to which any of these four symbols move, it is captured and removed from the board. These four symbols command fourteen squares if the path is unobstructed in all directions..
MOVES OF LOVE AND WORK AND THEIR SHADOWS
The moves of Love, Work and their shadows, Hatred and Idleness, offer some difficulty, as they are not confined to rank, file or diagonal like the other players. However, their moves are not hard to grasp if they are thought of as a jump or leap to the next square but one of the opposite color. The leap is made by moving one square in a rank and then two squares in a file, or one square in a file and two squares in a rank. In this move one symbol can jump over another symbol of its own or the hostile army. If the leap is from a white square, it will be to a black square, and vice versa.
As in the case of the other
plays, the symbol making this move can Only capture an Opposing symbol if it is
located on a square on which the moving symbol comes to rest: a symbol on the
square over which the moving symbol jumps is not captured.
MOVES OF WISDOM, ETERNAL LIFE AND THEIR SHADOWS
The symbols of Wisdom, Eternal Life, Ignorance and Death move backward and forward to any square on the diagonals on which they happen to stand, provided the path is not obstructed by a symbol of the same color as their own. They capture a hostile symbol in their path by occupying the square on which it stands. They are confined to squares of the same color as the ones on which they originally stood. They are thus able to reach only thirty-two squares on the board and are therefore less powerful than Power, Peace and their shadows which have access to all sixty-four squares.
MOVES OF THE PRESERVER AND ITS SHADOW, THE SPOILER
These are the two most powerful symbols. They can move forward, backward, sidewise or diagonally, in any direction and to any square on the rank, file or diagonal on which they stand, provided their path is not obstructed by another symbol of their own army. They capture a hostile symbol in their path by Occupying the square on which it stands.
MOVES OF THE CREATOR AND HIS SHADOW, THE DESTROYER
The Creator and Destroyer may
move and capture in any direction and to squares of either color, but can move
only one square at a time and Only to squares on which they cannot be captured
by a hostile symbol. These two symbols differ from all the others in that they
cannot be captured and removed from the board.
If a hostile symbol moves in such a way that on its
next move the Creator (or Destroyer) could be captured by it, it is said to
"attack" the Creator and the Creator is then in "check."
The player whose Creator (or
Destroyer) is in check must get it out of check or the attack will become a
"checkmate" and this particular scene in the eternal battle of
Opposing forces will come to an end.
The Creator and Destroyer can never occupy adjoining squares on the board, but must always have at least one square between them, as neither can "check" the other.
MOVES OF THE FRAVASHIS AND KHRAFSTRAS
Fravashis: Sun, Water, Air,
Food, Man, Earth, Health, Joy.
Darkness, Impure Water, Impure Air, Impure Food, Inferior Man,
Barrenness, Disease, Sadness.
The symbols of the eight
Fravashis and eight Khrafstras all follow the same particular rules. They are
the only symbols to move in one direction and capture in another. They move only forward, straight ahead in the file in
which they stand-except that on their first move they may advance two squares.
They capture Only forward diagonally,
moving Only one square at a time. They never move or capture backward or
sideways. Any symbol placed directly in front of a Fravashi or Khrafstra stops
its further advance, as it can only move forward yet cannot capture the symbol
blocking its forward move. If one of these symbols reaches the eighth rank, it
is "promoted" in the manner described later.
Once in each enactment of ASHA the player fighting
Ahura Mazda's battle may move two symbols at the same time: either the Creator
and Power, or the Creator and Peace. This procedure is called
"resting" and consists of a double step of the Creator toward the
other symbol used in the move and the placing of
that other symbol on the square over which the Creator has passed. The shadow of
the Creator, the Destroyer, has the same privilege.
Resting is Only permitted if
neither the Creator nor the other symbol involved in the battle has moved
previously, if the path between the two is unobstructed, and if none of the
three squares affected by the Creator's move is within range of a hostile
symbol. Resting is restricted to the three symbols of Ahura Mazda mentioned
above and to their shadows.
Neither the Creator nor the
Destroyer can '~rest" to get out of check, or through a position which is
in check, or "rest" into check, or "rest" into a square
occupied by a hostile symbol. However, the other symbol taking part in the
resting move, e.g. Power, is not affected by check.
CAPTURING "IN PASSING"
If a Fravashi which would be
captured by a Khrafstra (or vice versa) if it advanced one square, seeks to
avoid capture by exercising its privilege of making a double step forward, then
the opposing player may put it back one square and capture it. This procedure,
called capturing "in passing," is available only to Fravashis and
The symbol making the capture
must be standing on the fifth rank and the symbol it captures must be making its
first move. The move by which the symbol makes the capture must be the move
immediately after the double step of the opposing symbol in the play.
The Fravashis and their
shadows, the Khrafstras, are also subject to a procedure which may appropriately
be termed "promoting," as by it they are promoted to a higher status.
Whenever a Fravashi or a Khrafstra reaches the eighth
rank without being captured, its player has to exchange it for a symbol of
higher rank and of its own color, i.e., an Ahura or a Deva, as the case may be, using for this purpose a duplicate
symbol. Any symbol may be chosen with the exception of the Creator or Destroyer.
It can thus happen that the
player fighting Ahura Mazda's battle may have more than one Preserver, or more
than one Love or Wisdom on the board, while Ahriman's side may have more than
one Spoiler or Idleness. As the Preserver and Spoiler are the strongest symbols
available for the exchange, they are almost always chosen.
CHECK AND CHECKMATE
There is one exception to the
rule that the player may make the move of his choosing. This is when the Creator
or Destroyer is attacked in such a way that it could be captured on the next
move of a hostile symbol. It is then said to be in "check" (t) and it
is then the duty of the player whose symbol is checked to get it out of check
before making any other move.
Unless the attacking symbol
can be captured, the symbol in check can Only be protected by moving it to a
square on which it is not liable to attack or by interposing a symbol between
the symbol in check and the one attacking.
As already mentioned, the Creator or Destroyer must be got out of check or its player forfeits that particular scene of the battle. If unable to get out, it is said to be "checkmate." (††)
KEEPING THE SCORE
A method of recording the moves is needed, and for this
purpose an algebraic system of notation is used which serves to identify every
square on the board. In this system the files are lettered from A to H,
proceeding from left to right from Ahura Mazda's end of the board. The ranks are
numbered 1 to 8, counting from below upward from Ahura Mazda's viewpoint. By
combining number and letter any square on the board can be easily identified.
Examples of Parallellograms of Forces in Different Phases of the Cosmic Battle between the Armies of Ahura Mazda and Ahriman.