'Snakes and Ladders'
Museum no. MISC.5-1980
Snakes and Ladders has been a favourite race game in Britain for over 100 years. When it was originally devised Snakes and Ladders was a moral game with virtues in the shape of the ladders, allowing the players to reach heaven quickly, while the vices, in the shape of snakes, forced the player back down. Snakes and Ladders is probably based upon a very old Indian game called Moksha-Patamu, which was used for religious instruction and had 12 vices but only 4 virtues. According to Hindu teaching, good and evil exist side by side in man: but only virtuous acts - represented by the ladders - will shorten the soul's journey through a series of incarnations to the state of ultimate perfection. Human wrongdoing symbolised by the head of the snake leads to reincarnation in a lower, animal form.