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Bluff, all in, chaal! — How gambling became a mainstay tradition during Diwali

Gambling has come a long way from the days of dice to the recent trend of card games and massive parties

Bluff, all in, chaal! — How gambling became a mainstay tradition during Diwali

C.C. Chengappa

Updated: 4 Nov 2021 11:05 AM GMT

Just like a host of other festivals, Diwali too comes with its own set of fun events and traditions. Apart from the customary Pujas and ceremonies that are observed, there is a lot to look forward to from the perspective of games. Gambling is one such tradition that has evolved over time as an annual face off between friends, families and relatives. The reason behind this has a lot to do with Hindu Mythology with an interesting story behind it.

As the story goes, Goddess Parvati was the first to actually begin playing a game of chance with Shiva, who was her partner. There are several versions of this story but the original one represents more than just a form of gambling. It takes on a narrative of merging entities who wish to play against each other with the end result leading to a victor and a loser. The two individuals who play represent a creation and destruction of ideas and initiatives, something that is innately a part of the human mind for centuries now.

Parvati and Shiva engage in a form of jest over a game of dice. Shiva lost most of the time and was also accused of cheating by Parvati. Being the victor however, Parvati declared that those who play dice on the auspicious day of Diwali would be successful and prosperous throughout the year. This naturally has culminated into an age old tradition of playing games of chance on auspicious occasions.

This story was coupled with the concept of welcoming Durga, who is a sign of financial prosperity in all households. Dice was replaced over time with other games with monetary stakes but the story and auspiciousness behind its origin remained the same.

While dice is not too popular in Indian Diwali parties, card games have taken centre stage. Popular games include Rummy, Teen Patti, Blackjack, Bluff and even Poker. Parties are known to be organised in a way that helps keep the monetary stakes high and allow people the leeway of competing with minimal restrictions. Such parties are usually confined to friends and family as gambling per se is illegal in India. Police have also cracked down on gambling parties every year as they are a source of several illegal activities apart from illicit monetary transactions.

Playing card games for money comes under gambling and hence, most people keep their card games as private as possible. Regardless, it continues to thrive and survive year after year across India in various forms and under various events.

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