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Snakes and Ladders

A Game from India

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Snakes & Ladders ­ History
Snakes and Ladders originated in India as a game based on morality called Vaikuntapaali or Paramapada Sopanam (the ladder to salvation). Wikipeidia states, "The game was played widely in ancient India by the name of Moksha Patamu, the earliest known Jain version Gyanbazi dating back to 16th century. The game was called "Leela" - and reflected the Hinduism consciousness around everyday life." Moksha Patamu was used by Hindu spiritual teachers to educate children about the effects of good and evil. The ladders represented virtues and the snakes represented vices. The moral of the game was that a person can attain salvation (Moksha) through performing good deeds whereas by doing evil one takes rebirth in lower forms of life (Patamu). The number of ladders was less than the number of snakes as a reminder that walking the path of good is hard while the road that leads to death and pain is easy. Climbing up takes work, sliding down a snakes belly - well that's easy. The numbered squares are also significant The number "100" represented Moksha (Salvation). Tradgames has the remaining squares listed this way... The squares of virtue on the original game are Faith (12),


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Reliability (51), Generosity (57), Knowledge (76), Asceticism (78); the squares of evil are Disobedience (41), Vanity (44), Vulgarity (49), Theft (52), Lying (58), Drunkenness (62), Debt (69), Rage (84), Greed (92), Pride (95), Murder (73) and Lust (99). You can't help but see the religious and moral overtones of the game. Lust is the last enemy. The lust here is not necessarily sexual lust, but it is of a similar intensity. It is the appetite to lay hold of things which are not yours. It's envy at its worst and capable of keeping you from salvation.

The game is a game of life, and thus it has enduring appeal. It draws on our desire to escape whatever difficulty we face and find salvation, find deliverance. As already mentioned, as a tool for educators it is a way of discussing the moral dilemma that children must face as they grow.


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The game is still made in India and if you are looking for an authentic version you are sure to be delighted. The most authentic version we have come across is a board, dice, cup and pieces all hand made using paper mache and vegetable dies. Its simple, but stunning and the authenticity just makes it so much more enjoyable to play. It is also still an effective tool for gathering with your family or school students in order to talk about the good and bad of life. When used in this traditional sense the game becomes even more compelling and is a great way to start a good conversation!

Game Rules
Snakes and ladders is a game of luck played by between two and four players. Although it is marketed for children, it can be played and enjoyed by all ages. It is played on a ten by ten square board, numbered from one to 100; one is the starting square and 100 the end square. There are various amounts of snakes and ladders of differing lengths printed on the board, and a single die; the use of a dice-shaker is optional. Usually, coloured counters are used as playing pieces, but coloured buttons or any other objects small enough to fit on the playing squares can be used.


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The varying lengths of the snakes and ladders will move a player's piece backwards or forwards, slowing down or speeding up their race to the end. Some of the snakes and ladders are short and are only a small setback, or a small advantage. However, there is usually at least one long ladder, that takes a player about a quarter of the way up the board, and most traditional boards have the head of a long snake at square number 99, taking the unfortunate player almost a quarter back down the board, just when they were nearly at the winning square. To decide who starts the game, the players take turns in rolling the die; the player with the highest score starts, and rolls the die again to move. The race to the end of the board begins. All players start with their playing piece off the board, with square number one as the first square to count on their turn. More than one playing piece can occupy the same square.


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There is no extra turn for rolling a six. It is a good idea to clarify the rules before the start of the game. On their turn, they roll the die and move their playing piece along the squares in accordance with the number rolled. When a player lands on a square containing the foot of a ladder, they move up to the top of the ladder. When a player lands on a square containing a snake's head, they move down the snake, right down to the end of the snake's tail.
The winner is the first player to reach salvation! - square 100. There are different rules for how this square can be reached. One is that the exact number needs to be rolled on the die, either by remaining on a square of 94 or above, and waiting until the required number is rolled, or by moving to 100 then reversing back, according to the number rolled on the die. The other is that the exact number need not be rolled; decide at the beginning of the game which rule to follow.

Enjoy The Game!


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