|Vastu Purusha mandala over ashtāpada|
Ashtāpada, the uncheckered 8 × 8 board, is presumed to be of Hindu derivation. The literal meaning of ashtapadi is "eight steps." This word is the origin of the word ashtāpada, an Indian board game, the forerunner of chess. The word now primarily refers to the board itself.
The 8 x 8 grid, ashtapada, manduka, or chandita mandala, is regarded by several sources to represent a "field of action."
Ashtapada is depicted here as four concentric square bands with areas of 28. 20, 12, and 8 units relative to the whole. The areas of the four banded regions are precisely mirrored by the divination probabilities given by the yarrow-stalk oracle commonly used to consult the Book of Changes.
Vastu Purusha mandala presents Purusha over the 8 x 8 grid, implying that the grid symbolizes Purusha's dwelling-place, or Prakriti, the material body or world, material contrast to Purusha. Furthermore, when Purusha (Cosmic Man, Universal Soul, or Atman) is positioned on the ashtapada, the grid can be said to represent the human body -- which is itself considered a "field of action," or "kurukshetra."
When the divination ritual numbers (6, 7, 8, and 9) and their respective divinatory probabilities (4, 12, 20, and 28 taken as fractions of the 8 x 8 field) are treated as vectors and the inner-product taken between them, the result is the "perfect" number 496. We can regard this number as a defining characteristic of ashtapada within the context of I Ching divination.
We may again relate 496 to the human body because the body possesses 31 pairs (or 62) of spinal nerves. The prime factorization of 496 is 31 times 16 which is also 62 times 8; thus 62 is the octopartition of 496, which number defines the divination field; the field, in turn, representing the human body.
- Related to the game Chaturanga: (Skt: "four-limbed"), ancestor of modern chess
- Related to Manduka/Chandita mandalas
- Populated by the 64 hexagrams, it represents 2080
- Overlaid by xiang probability bands, it represents 496, the third "perfect number"
- Kurukshetra (site of the war in Mahabharata)
- kuru, from the Sanskrit root kri="work, material action" and ksetra="field". This "field of action" is the human body with its physical, mental and soul faculties, the field (kurukshetra) on which all activities of one's life take place.
- Characterized as a "field of activity," indicating the body, or even the World, suggesting metaphoric identity relation between these
- Bhavagad Gita: ch. 13, v1-2
- Arjuna said: O my dear Kṛṣṇa, I wish to know about prakṛti [nature], puruṣa [the enjoyer], and the field and the knower of the field, and of knowledge and the object of knowledge.The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: This body, O son of Kuntī, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field.
- Ta Chuan pt.1; ch.11; v.5-6
- Therefore there is in the Changes the Great Primal Beginning. This generates the two primary forces. The two primary forces generate the four images. The four images generate the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams determine good fortune and misfortune. Good fortune and misfortune create the great field of action.
- Foundations of Oriental Art and Symbolism, ch. 9, "Symbolism of Chess"
- The form of the chess-board corresponds to the "classical" type of Vāstu-mandala, the diagram which also constitutes the basic layout of a temple or a city. It has been pointed out that this diagram symbolizes existence conceived as a "field of action" of the divine powers.