Ancient India Games:

The Ancient India Games of Snakes and Ladders

The game had its origin in India. It was called Moksha Patam or Parama Padam or Mokshapat. It was used to teach Hindu Dharma and Hindu values to children. The British renamed it as Snakes and Ladders. The game was created by the 13th-century poet saint Gyandev.

The ladders in the game represented virtues and the snakes indicated vices. The game was played with shells and dices. Subsequently, however, the game underwent several modifications. Even during the course, meaning has remained intact which is good deeds take us to heaven and evil to a cycle of re-births. There are certain references which take the game back to 2nd century BC.

Ancient India Games Snakes and Ladders Dice
Snakes and Ladders

In the original game square, 12 was faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. These were the squares were the ladder was found. Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Drunkenness, 69 for Debt, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, 73 for Murder and 99 for Lust. These were the squares were the snake was found. The Square 100 finally represented Nirvana or Moksha.

The game served a dual purpose. Firstly, entertainment, as well as preached about the dos and don’ts, divine reward and punishment, ethical values and morality. The final goal led to Vaikuntha or Heaven, depicted by Vishnu surrounded by his devotees, or Kailasa with Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Skanda, and their devotees.

The game was ideal for teaching values to children who think they already know more than their parents. This is of special importance in the age of moral and ethical degeneration. Subsequently, the British took the game to England in 1892. Since that time, it came to be named Snakes and Ladders. However, they changed it according to the then existing Victorian values.

Dice – The dice was attributed to India on account of some archeological remains. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of oblong dice has been found in Harrapan sites such as Kalibangan, Lothal, Ropar, Alamgirpur, Desalpur, and surrounding territories. Some of these dated back to the third millennium BCE, which were used for gambling.

The oblong or cubical dice was the precursor of the more primitive Vibhisaka-small, hard nuts drawn randomly to obtain factors of a certain integer. Dicing was believed to have later spread westwards to Persia, influencing Persian board games. Early references to dicing can be found in the Rig Veda as well as the comparatively newer Atharvaveda.