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.
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.