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Snakes and ladders, India, late 19th century. Watercolour on cloth. Museum no. CIRC.324-1972

Snakes and ladders, India, late 19th century. Watercolour on cloth. Museum no. CIRC.324-1972

Snakes and ladders was a popular game in India. This version teaches about Jain beliefs. The board represents a person’s progress in life, with each square representing something about behaviour or the Jain religion. The ladders represent good behaviour that allows people to move to a higher level. The snakes represent bad behaviour leading to descent to a lower level.

Play Snakes and Ladders online

This online game of snakes and ladders is based closely on a Jain board in the V&A's collection. The board is painted in opaque watercolour on cloth. It was made in Rajasthan, perhaps in a city called Bikaner, in the late 19th or the 20th century.

It is not known for certain what counters would have been used with the traditional board as none of the surviving old sets have counters with them.

For this interactive game counters from another game called pachisi have been used, which come from a 19th-century set in the V&A. The dice are cowrie shells, which were commonly used as dice in India.

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