2010 ‘Snakes and Ladders’ – international folio of prints curated by Kavita Shah

Snakes and Ladders originated in India as a game based on morality called ‘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 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 Jacques of Jacques of London. This game 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 through performing good deeds whereas by doing evil, one takes rebirth in lower forms of life. 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.