Rules of the Art of Asha







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 - which  operate  within  the  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.


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 cosmology.

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 the play.

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 restrictions.

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 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.


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 board.

The symbols are grouped into patterns (determining their position in relation to each other and their rules of movement) as follows:







Eternal Life










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..


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.


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.


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.


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.


Fravashis:  Sun, Water, Air, Food, Man, Earth, Health, Joy.

Khrafstras: 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.


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 their shadows.

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.


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." (††)


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.