It originated in
as a simple device to highlight the virtues and vices of life. If the snakes represented the evil or vices of life, the ladders stood for good, gain and virtue. India
Over the years the device of vice and virtue soon became a must in almost every household in
and in the last century it made its way to the West. Today, this device is one of the most well-known games of the world and this is Snakes and Ladders. India
The game of snakes and ladders is most popular in almost all houses and across all countries of the world. In
, there could be very few households where the elders would have sat and either watched or participated in the snakes and ladder game with their younger ones. India
The credit for the game should go to the 13th century Marathi saint poet composer Gyanadev, Jnanadeva , also known as Jnanashwar.
When the saint invented the game it was called Mokshapat.
The saint used the game to effectively bring across to the people the virtues and vices of life. The ladders in the game were virtues and the snakes vices.
The Mokshapat was played with cowrie shells and dices. Once a person climbed the ladders and reached the end point, he was said to have attained moksha. The end point represented the house of good or the full house of virtues.
Jnaneshwar made use of this game of chutes and ladders to explain the virtue of good living and high thinking. His board was made out of clothe and divided into blocks called houses which represented different emotions such as Karuna or mercy, Darr or fear, Daya or sympathy, joot or lie, Sathya or truth. Most of the negative emotions were represented by snakes and positive feelings, emotions and thoughts by ladders.
The ladders were called as steps to heaven or Vaikuntapalli.
Very soon, the game became popular and when the English came to
India in the 16th century, they carried it back to where it quickly caught the imagination of the public. England
The basic rules of the game came to be framed in
England and subsequently, it travelled to the United States thanks to the efforts of Milton Bradley (1836-1911), a game pioneer, credited by many with launching the board game industry in North America with Milton Bradley Company. He called his game “The Chequered Game of Life” and it was a runaway success after it was introduced in the in 1860. US
By the way there is a Jain version of the game called Leela and it dates back to the 16th century.
In the original game, square 12 represented faith, 51 stood for reliability, 57 for generosity, 76 for knowledge and 78 was for asceticism. These were the squares were the ladders commenced and went up the squares.
Similarly, the snakes were found in Square 41 which stood for disobedience, 44 was for arrogance, 49 for vulgarity, 52 for theft, 58 for uttering a lie, 62 for alcoholism, 69 for debt, 84 for anger, 92 for greed, 95 for pride and false prestige , 73 for murder and 99 for lust. The Square 100 represented Nirvana or Moksha or a house full of all virtues.
Jnaneshwar was born in Alandi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra in 1275 and he entered jeeva Samadhi in 1296, at a young age of 21. He is even today known for his beautiful work on the Gita called the Bhavartha Dipika. This is among the first vernacular commentaries on the Gita. He composed this text when he was just 15 years of age.
He has more than a thousand devotional songs in Marathi to his credit.
When he was young, Jnaneshwar confounded the orthodox people of Paithan and won the right to wear the sacred thread (Janivara) by making a water buffalo recite the Vedas. He is also called Dhyaneshwar.