Chutes and Ladders. Now there’s a game I never played as a kid. Or an adult for that matter. Never really played the Candyland thing either. Or Life. We were more Monolopy players… & Clue. I remember those two for sure. Definitely not Chutes and Ladders, but that is what came to mind when I caught view of this fire escape. And then, I said right out loud…. “I betcha’ any money that is how Chutes and Ladders got its start.” Well it is a good thing you weren’t standing there. Because I would have owned you “any money” right there on the spot.
So….. you know me. I looked it up as soon as I got home. It was called “Snakes and Ladders” in England, before Milton Bradley vamped a version for the U.S. However, it started in India…. it was a game based on “morality” called “Paramapada Sopanam” (the ladder to salvation). It was originated from the concept of Hinduism consciousness around everyday life.
And there you have it. While most of my little friends and neighbors were learning good moral lessons based on the Hindu premise, I was off killing Colonel Mustard in the den with a lead pipe. A little later in the day, right after I got outa’ jail, I would buy a bunch of hotels on Park Place and bilk people for rent. Ahhhh…. the American way.
The History of the Game: Snakes and Ladders originated in India as a game based on morality called Vaikuntapaali or Paramapada Sopanam (the ladder to salvation). This game made its way to England, and was eventually introduced in the United States of America by game pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.
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. Impressed by the ideals behind the game, a newer version was introduced in Victorian England in 1892, possibly by John Jaques of Jaques of London.
Moksha Patamu was perhaps invented by Hindu spiritual teachers to teach children about the effects of good deeds as opposed to bad deeds. The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, humility, etc., and the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, theft, etc. 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 treading the path of good is very difficult compared to committing sins. Presumably the number “100” represented Moksha (Salvation). In Andhra Pradesh, snakes and ladders is played in the name of Vaikuntapali.
The squares of virtue on the original game are Faith (12), 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)