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Indonesian Regal Ramayana Chess Set, ca. 1920-1950

An ornamental chess set made in Bali inspired by the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the two ancient Hindu epics. According to the former owner the set was made in Bali / Indonesia in the 1920's or 1930's, but it could in my view also date to the mid-20th century. Ned Munger shows a similar set in "Cultures, Chess & Art", Vol. 3 (Pacific Islands & Asia), figure 68, which he describes as "Regal Rama" chess set. The set has a king size of 4.3" (11 cm) and is made of antler, one side natural, one side tea stained. The white king and queen as Rama and Sita. the white rooks as Hanuman, the monkey king, and the white knight as the epic eagle Garuda. The white pawns as Hanuman's army of monkeys eagerly waiting to fight the black king Rwana's demon army.

The carving of the pieces is extremely delicate, as can be seen in some of the close up pictures, which in my view makes the set special and rare. Sets of similar style and make were offered in chess auctions several times, inter alia by Bloomsbury Auctions in 2005 and 2006 and by Bonhams in 2008.

The pieces are displayed on a wooden board with the black squares made of ebony and the white squares and ornamental inlays made of bone.

Many thanks to Holger Langer for the description and the photos.

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