Saturday, February 28, 2009
Snakes and Ladders
A Board game (board with a grid of 10x10) that we play with dice and token, if token land on the lower-numbered end of the squares with a "ladder", then player can move their token up to the higher-numbered square and if the token land on the higher-numbered square of a pair with a "snake" (or chute), then player must move their token down to the lower-numbered square.... Yes here I am talking about 'Snakes and Ladder'.
It's a game almost all of us have played. It's a game which is related to the childhood memories of all of us.
But do we ever think that who invented this game? What is the significance of this game?
Yes, Snakes and Ladders is an original Indian game.
The board game, today called Snakes and Ladders, originated in ancient India, where it was known with the name Mokshapat or Moksha Patamu.It is not actually known when or who invented it, though it's believed the game was played at a time as early as 2nd century BC. According to some historians, the game was invented by Saint Gyandev in the 13th century AD.
Originally, the game was used as a part of moral instruction to children. The squares in which ladders start were each supposed to stand for a virtue, and those housing the head of a snake were supposed to stand for an evil.
In Moksha-Patamu, the squares of virtue are faith (12), reliability (51), generosity (57), knowledge (76), asceticism (78), while the squares of evil are disobedience (41), vanity (44), vulgarity (49), theft (52), lying (58), drunkenness (62), debt (69), murder (73), rage (84), greed (92), pride (95) and lust (99). The last square (100) represents Nirvana.The snakes outnumbered the ladders in the original Hindu game as a reminder that treading the path of good is very difficult compared to committing sins. Presumably the number "100" represented Moksha (Salvation).
Once the player reaches the second last square, he has to have the patience to wait for the right number to fall so that he can finally reach home.
The game was transported to England by the colonial rulers in the latter part of the 19th century, with somemodifications. The modified game was named Snakes and Ladders and stripped of its moral and religious aspects and the number of ladders and snakes were equalized. In 1943, the game was introduced in the US under the name Chutes and Ladders.
Through its several modifications over the decades, however, the meaning of the game has remained the same -- 'that good deeds will take people to heaven (Moksha) while evil deeds will lead to a cycle of rebirths in lower form of life (Patamu).