Ask any child about his/her favourite board game and the answer is bound to be ‘Snakes and Ladders.’ This all-time favourite board game originated in our very own country. In fact, India is responsible for giving to the world many board games including Ludo. Of course they were originally called by different names.
Snakes and Ladders was called Gyan Chauper or Moksha Patam. It symbolized two of Hindu philosophy’s contrasting virtues, karma and kama or destiny and desire. The board was full of symbolic images like Gods, angels, animals, flowers and people. The ladders symbolised virtues while the snakes represented vices. The moral depicted by this board game was that Moksha or salvation can be attained by doing good and by doing evil you will only be reborn as lower forms of life. The board had lesser ladders than snakes which indicated that it is harder to move on the path of good than the path of sin. Reaching the last square which was the number 100 symbolised the attainment of Moksha or spiritual liberation.
When the game moved to England, both ladders and snakes were made the same in number as the English believed that for every sin committed, a chance at redemption exists. Through the years, the physical aspects of the game presented in Indian models faded, but the sense of morality remained.
Today, versions of the board game like Chutes and Ladders and Up and Down Game exist, but Snakes and Ladders remains, by far, the favourite all over the world.