Chaturanga (चतुरङ्ग; caturaṅga), is a game from ancient India thought to be the common ancestor of chess.

Chaturanga was created in the 6th century within the Gupta Empire. By the 7th century, it was adopted in Sassanid Persia as Shatranj, which was the form of chess brought to Europe in the middle ages.

The best that historians can guess is that the rules would be similar to shatranj, it’s successor, although they really aren’t sure the exact rules.

The name caturaṅga means “having four limbs or parts” and in epic poetry it often means “army”. The name comes from a battle formation mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata, referring to the four divisions of an army; elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry. An ancient battle formation, akshauhini, is like the setup of chaturanga.

Chaturanga was played on an 8×8 uncheckered board, called ashtāpada. The board sometimes had special markings, the meaning of which are unknown today. These marks were not related to chaturanga, but were drawn on the board only by tradition. A chess historian figured that the ashtāpada was also used for some old race-type dice game in which the marks had meaning.

Another variant is a four player game. Four armies consisting of four pieces and four pawns lock horns on a 64 square 8×8 board. This game involves a dice. It can be two players against two players or a free for all.

In Arabic, most of the terminology of chess is derived directly from chaturanga: Modern chess itself is called chitranj in Arabic, and the bishop is called the elephant.