Congkak (Malay pronunciation: [ˈtʃoŋkaʔ]) is a mancala game played in the island of Borneo, Singapore, and Peninsular Malaysia. Minor variants are known as Tchonka, Naranj, Dhakon or Sungka and are played in Indonesia (mostly Java), Sri Lanka, the Maldives, southern Thailand, the Philippines and the Marianas. In Indonesia, it is called "Congklak" meaning cowrie shells, which are often used as pieces. On the island of Java, the variant called "Dhakon" uses little red seeds as pieces. In the Philippines a variant is called "Sungka" and shells are used as pieces. Congkak is believed to originate from the word ‘congak’ which in old Malay Language means mental calculation (without writing it down). It is believed that the game originated in Malacca Kingdom where it became very popular and spread to the South East Asia region. This spread was due to the many travelers who visited the kingdom because it was a trading city. In the early days, it was thought that this game was for the king and family and palace residents, however later it spread to the general population of the kingdom. As the congkak board is shaped like a boat it is believed that it is based on the legend of a fisherman unable to go to the sea during rainy season who lost his income during this time. To prevent boredom he created this game which is similar to his boat. However, on the island of Java, the board often has a dragon head at each end and the sides of the board (which is made of wood) are carved to look like reptile scales.
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