Snakes and Ladders teaches effects of good and evil
Snakes and Ladders originated in India as a game based onmorality called Vaikuntapaali or Paramapada Sopanam (the ladderto salvation).
The game was played widely in ancient India bythe name of Moksha Patamu, the earliest known Jain versionGyanbazi dating back to 16th century. The game was called "Leela"- and reflected the Hinduism consciousness around everyday life.
Most people believe it was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyandev.
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 performinggood deeds whereas by doing evil one takes rebirth in lower formsof 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
In the original game square 12 was faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. These were the squares were the ladder was found.
Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Drunkenness, 69 for Debt, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, 73 for Murder and 99 for Lust. These were the squares were the snake was found.
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 Square 100 represented Nirvana or Moksha. Which is ultimate goal of life and one achieves by overcoming hurdles generated by enemies and taking help of good deeds. Our good deeds represent ladder in life which took us quickly towards moksha.
It draws on our desire to escape whatever difficulty we face and find salvation, find deliverance. As a tool for educators it is a way of discussing the moral dilemma that children must face as they grow.