Snake & Ladders board game was originally called Moksha Patam

A saint poet of 13th century, Gyandev, had created an interesting children’s game called Moksha Patam. The square board game contained a lot of snakes and a lot of ladders. That is why, under British occupation, the British later named it “Snakes and Ladders” instead of the original Moksha Patam.

Snake and Ladders game is very popular among children and parents are also happy to play the game because it develops counting abilities, the pattern of numbers, fine motor skills, and teamwork.

A typical snakes and ladder board is like this. It doesn’t usually have writing on it. But, the original board game had written words at the start and the end of each snake and ladder.

The original Snake and Ladders

In the original Moksha Patam had one hundred squares with each smaller squares named in numbers in ascending order from the right bottom square towards the topmost left square. The names on the:

There were five ladders starting at the following squares.

  • 12th square – faith
  • 51st square – reliability
  • 57th square – generosity
  • 76th square – knowledge
  • 78th square – asceticism.

These were the squares from where one could move ahead faster by skipping intermediate ladders. The tops of each of the ladder depict a God, or one of the various heavens like Kailasa, Vaikuntha, Brahmaloka and so on.

There were 12 squares with snake heads:

  • 41st square – disobedience
  • 44th square – arrogance
  • 49th square – vulgarity
  • 52nd square – theft
  • 58th square – lying
  • 62nd square – drunkenness
  • 69th square – debt
  • 84th square – anger
  • 92nd square – greed
  • 95th square – pride
  • 73rd square – hatya
  • 99th square – Kaama

The snakes in these squares are waiting  with its mouth open to swallow and undo the progress made so far. The length of the snake represented the severity of the action.

The 100th square represented the ultimate state – the Nirvana or Moksha.

As the game progressed various actions of a person were supposed to take you up or down the board like that in the real life.

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Some believe it was also called “Gyan Chaupar”.  Unlike the modern version played solely for fun, the game was originally created to impart the knowledge of basic ethics and the concept of Hinduism. The game was was envisioned as sort of spiritual journey of a person starting from the square 1 known as Utapatti / birthplace, and gradually moving. The following versions are 9×9 board games with 81 squares.

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