Snakes and ladders

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Snakes and ladders, or chutes and ladders, is a classic children's board game.[1] It is played between 2 or more players on a playing board with numbered grid squares. On certain squares on the grid are drawn a number of "ladders" connecting two squares together, and a number of "snakes" or "chutes" also connecting squares together. The size of the grid (most commonly 8×8, 10×10 or 12×12) varies from board to board, as does the exact arrangement of the chutes and the ladders: both of these may affect the duration of game play. As a result, the game can be represented as a state absorbing Markov chain.[2]

The game was sold as Snakes and ladders in England before Milton Bradley introduced the basic concept in the United States as Chutes and ladders, an "improved new version of ... England's famous indoor sport."[2] Its simplicity and the see-sawing nature of the contest make it popular with younger children, but the lack of any skill component in the game makes it less appealing for older players.



Snakes and Ladders originated in India as a game based on morality called Vaikuntapaali or Paramapada Sopanam (the ladder to salvation).[3] This game made its way to England, and was eventually introduced in the United States of America by game pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.[3]

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.

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