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Green move... Guess! Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia | by Rana Pipiens
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Green move... Guess! Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia

Becak-pedaller chess players near the Kraton in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.

An important mode of transport still in Yogyakarta is the becak, the three-wheeled pedal bike which can carry one Westerner but an entire Javanese family; there's a yellow one in the background here. Motorised, these can be terribbly polluting devices. Recently, though, the local Gadja Mada University (with enthusiastic Jufti Tengga as an innovator) together with Toyota is developing a modernised version which will be Clean-Air friendly; 'green', as we like to say.

Green, too, is the color of this chess board, with no doubt Muslim players. Chess has a long history on Java, dating well before Europeans first noticed it there around 1500. Perhaps brought to Java by Buddhist monks from India much earlier, it soon became a national sport. By the long era of the Gailendra Empire (which produced the Borobudur) it had become entrenched. Called 'Main Chator' (Game of Chess), a name probably derived from the Sanskrit 'Chaturanga' (the Army Game), some of its rules were different from European forms of chess (although there was variation here as well; for example, contemporary rules of pawn promotion were not established until 1851). It seemed to me that the chess game in the picture followed general, modern rules. What the green move is about to be - I would think - is a last, desperate one. But it IS green!

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Taken on August 2, 2006