‘Snakes and Ladders’ (or ‘Chutes and Ladders’) is a famous ancient Indian indoor game which is now regarded as a worldwide classic. The board game is played between two or more players. It is always played on a ten by ten square board, numbered from 1 to 100. The gameboard is interestingly designed with numbers, grids, and squares. The game starts from the 1st square and it ends on the 100th square.
A number of ‘ladders’ and ‘snakes’ (or ‘chutes’) are pictured on the board, each connecting to two particular board squares. Unlike other board games, ‘Snakes and Ladders’ starts from the bottom square and finishes on the top square. The journey of a player is helped and hindered by ladders and snakes, respectively. The game teaches morality lessons to the players and depicts how the journey of life is complicated by different virtues (ladders) and vices (snakes). There is hardly any skill component required for playing this game, and its simplicity has made it popular amongst the children and adults alike.
Origin of the Game
The roots of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ can be traced to ancient India, where the game was mostly played by the kings and the elite section of the society. It was also famous by the name ‘Moksha Patamu’ and was formulated by Hindu Spiritual teachers. The game was called ‘Leela’ – and reflected the Hinduism consciousness around everyday life. Another name for it was the ‘Ladder to Salvation’.
Eventually, the game reached Victorian England and finally in the year 1892, a newer version of the game was invented by John Jacques. From England, the game made its journey towards United States (U.S.) in the year 1943 where it was made popular by Milton Bradley. It is believed that here, in the U.S., it officially acquired the name ‘Snakes and Ladders’.
Since ancient India, the game is especially popular amongst the children. The game was also promoted at national level amongst the school going children. The game lucidly sifts good deeds from the bad ones and leaves a moral behind it.
Two or more players take turns in throwing the dice and moving on as per the numbers gained on every throw. The players thus start advancing their wooden stool or button across the gameboard. A player’s advancement is hindered and accelerated on the way with snakes and ladders of different size and shape.
When a player steps on a square which has a ladder going up, he moves right up to the top of the ladder, to the higher number square. However, if a player lands on a square comprising snakes-head, he slides back down to its corresponding lower number square. The players keep on rolling the dice and going across the board till they reach the last number i.e. the 100th square. If one rolls the dice and scores a six, he gets two goes. When he reaches the number 100, he has attained salvation, he has won!
Ladder of Salvation
The ladders symbolize virtues for instance humanity, devotion, and modesty. The snakes signify the bad omen such as misfortune, rage, murder etc. The snakes represent evil deeds, which result in rebirth in the lower statures of life. On the other hand, attaining salvation, on performing virtuous deeds, is symbolized as ladders. The luck and blessings derived from the ‘Ladder to Salvation’ can trigger up the process of salvation. The mission of the player is to free himself from the bondage of virtues and omens and it’s achieved upon reaching the 100th square.
It is a game played with a specific aim i.e. to reach the end and attain salvation. There are also two main elements in this game; snakes versus the ladders; good versus evil. This makes the game more challenging and fun. Most importantly, it is a game which triggers two emotions such as hope and despair. One gets hope when he climbs the ladder and reaches the last number on the board, and he feels despair when he slides down the snake’s head.