Gyanbazi (game of snakes and ladders)

Unknown artist

  • Date: Late 19th century
  • Dimensions: H. 82.5 cm, W. 65.8 cm
  • Medium: Opaque watercolour on fabric
  • Region: Gujarat, Rajasthan
  • Museum number: PTG.01192

An example of the Jain version of snakes and ladders board game known as gyanbazi (game of knowledge) or gyan (jnana) choupad.

The checkered board is divided into eighty-four numbered squares, each inscribed with the rules of conduct and the good and bad effects thereof. The ladders signify virtues that elevate the player to a higher level whereas snakes signify downfall. The four-tiered pavilion at the top represents the heavens. Its top shows Siddhasaila flanked by peacocks symbolizing the place where the liberated beings live. The pavilion is flanked by the sun god astride a seven-headed horse and the moon god riding an antelope. Borders are decorated with running floral motifs.

This form of the game with its religious pursuit became popular among Jain nuns. It was equally popular with the Rajasthani courts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and is also available in Hindu, Muslim and Jain versions.

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