A Closer Look at Moksha Patam, The Successor of the Snakes and Ladders Board Game

The snakes and ladders board game is one of the most popular board games all around the globe, thanks to its fun features and immersive gameplay.

Besides the conventional, offline version of indulging in the board game, enthusiasts love to play snakes and ladders online. Thanks to the popularity the game enjoys, many online iterations of the board game are readily available on the Internet for all major platforms. 

Although the game is widely recognized as snakes and ladders today, there have been numerous predecessors of the game over many centuries. The classic game has a long and rich history. The classic board game originated in ancient India as Moksha Patam. 

This article will shed light on Moksha Patam, the successor of the snakes and ladders game, and cover numerous related aspects. Let us dive right into it:

Moksha Patam – The Successor of Snakes and Ladders

When the snakes and ladders game came into existence, it was known as “Moksha Patam.” Besides its name, the features of the board game were also very different from that of the classic board game’s that the world knows and loves indulging in today.

Moksha Patam originated in ancient India. Back then, the board game was not merely a game, i.e., it was deemed very sacred since it was synonymous or closely associated with multiple postulates of the traditional Hindu philosophy. 

The orthodox iteration of the classic board game sheds light on the differences between crucial virtues like karma or kama, as well as destiny or desire. Moreover, the game focused primarily on destiny, which is one aspect that is very different from other similar board games like Pachisi, which shed light on human life as a mix of skills and luck.  

Moksha Patam as a Teaching Tool

Besides being recognized as a virtue-centric board game, Moksha Patam was also popular as a teaching tool during ancient times. Back then, scholars used the game to teach individuals, especially children, the positive effects of performing good deeds versus the catastrophic consequences of performing bad deeds. 

The physical Moksha Patam game board was considered sacred since it featured different varieties of symbolic images, including ones of gods, angels, people, etc. Besides featuring symbolic pictures, the game board also featured snakes and ladders, representing contrasting traits and virtues. 

The ladders were representatives of good virtues like generosity, goodness, humility, and many more, whereas the snakes were representatives of human vices such as jealousy, anger, theft, lust, etc. Besides all other factors, what made Moksha Patam a highly efficient teaching tool was that it offered a highly valuable moral lesson.

The lesson stated that any individual who wishes to attain salvation or Moksha could easily do it by living a pure life, which is only possible if they perform good deeds. On the other hand, if an individual performs only bad deeds throughout their mortal life, they will be reborn as a being of lower stature. 

Moreover, the number of ladders present on the physical game board was lesser as compared to the number of snakes. This feature indicated that it is very hard to lead a good life compared to living one filled with sinful actions. To conclude, the game fulfilled its purpose of imparting valuable wisdom exceptionally well. 

How Was Moksha Played?

Similar to the snakes and ladders board game, Moksha Patam was also played on a physical game board made of cloth using playing pieces and dice. Players needed to place their tokens on the square labeled “1” and start the game by rolling the die.

Like snakes and ladders, the primary objective of players in Moksha Patam was to ensure their tokens reached the final or 100th square before their opponents. If a player’s token landed on the head of a snake, their token would fall down to its tail. On the other hand, if their token landed on the starting point of a stair, it would move upwards and get placed on the block where the ladder’s upper end is present. 

How Moksha Patam Paved the Way for Future Variants

Moksha Patam became immensely popular among the masses in ancient India. From there, the game traveled to different parts of the globe. In the 1890s, it went to the U.K. or Britain, where it came to be known as snakes and ladders. 

In 1943, the game was popularized in the United States of America by Milton Bradley. However, the game’s name here was changed to Chutes and Ladders since Milton’s company feared that the term “snakes” would scare children away and affect the game’s sales figures. 

Besides this, the game also traveled to different parts of the globe and got popularized under different names. For instance, in Muslim countries like Turkey and Iran, the game came to be known as Shatranj al- ‘urafa. Besides this, the game became renowned as Shap Shiri or Shap Ludu in Bengali-speaking countries.

Final Thoughts

Besides being a highly entertaining game, Moksha Patam also doubled as an effective teaching tool during ancient times. Even today, the game is popular for being ahead of its time. To ensure the classic game’s memory is always in people’s hearts, numerous ancient Moksha Patam boards are displayed in museums and institutes across the country. 

For instance, the National Museum in New Delhi features multiple Moksha Patam game boards. Besides this, the Rajasthan Oriental Institute in Jodhpur also features similar boards. The game’s memories are also preserved and displayed in multiple foreign locations, including the prominent British Library in London. 

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