Smartphones and gaming consoles have led to board games being gradually phased out of our lives (insert sad emoticon). It is really sad to know that the next generation might only get to play a game as iconic as Snakes & Ladders on iPads, if at all they do manage to stumble upon it. A game so simple anyone could play it. A game so addictive that everyone did play it. But today I learnt something truly incredible about its origin. A fact that’ll definitely make you relive those fond memories from your childhood.
Dating as far back as the 2nd century BC, Snakes & Ladders is a game that was invented in India. Known as Mokshapat, Moksha Patamu, Vaikuntapaali or Paramapada Sopanam, it really has a deeper meaning attached to it.
Snakes & Ladders is mainly based on karma and the importance of good deeds over evil
Back then, the board used to be covered with symbolic images of gods and angels while the rest of the board would be covered with animals, flowers and people. The ladders would represent Hindu virtues like generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes would represent our vices, like lust, anger, murder, and theft. The moral of the game was to attain nirvana by doing good deeds and overcoming evils one step at a time. Landing on a temptation (snake) would take you all the way down representing death and rebirth in lower forms of life.
To be more specific, square number 12 was faith (ladder), 51 was reliability (ladder), 57 was generosity (ladder), 76 was knowledge (ladder), and 78 was Asceticism (ladder). Meanwhile, square 41 was for disobedience (snake), 44 was arrogance (snake), 49 was vulgarity (snake), 52 was theft (snake), 58 was lies (snake), 62 was drunkenness (snake), 69 was debt (snake), 84 was anger (snake), 92 was greed (snake), 95 was pride (snake), 73 was murder (snake) and 99 was lust (snake).
The number of ladders back then would be less than the number of temptations or snakes, indicating that the world is full of sins and that the path of good is always a very difficult one. Reaching ‘100’ would represent nirvana or moksha.
The whole point was to teach one and all about how even a very successful life could be ruined because of one small screw up
The British eventually took the game to England in 1892 and altered it according to Victorian values.
All hail the internet!