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The ancient educational game of Moksh-Patamu (fall, descent) was used to teach moral behavior in India. Of Hindu origin, it taught the players that virtuous behavior would aid progression to Nirvan-Salvation, but evil would make the journey difficult.
It was used to teach Hindu Dharm and Hindu values to children. The game was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyan Dev. The game was played with cowrie shells and dices. This is known as Gyan Chaupad (ज्ञान चौपड़, game of wisdom) as well.
The ladders were placed on the squares of virtue, which on the original game were, Faith 12, Reliability 51, Generosity 57, Knowledge 76 and Asceticism 78.
The snakes were placed on the squares of evil and were, Disobedience 41, Vanity 44, Vulgarity 49, Theft 52, Lying 58, Drunkenness 62, Debt 69, Rage 84, Greed 92, Pride 95, Murder 73 and Lust 99.
The Square 100 represented Nirvan or Moksh-Salvation-Liberation-Assimilation in the Almighty. Also known as Param Padam, there are a hundred squares on a board; the ladders take one up, the snakes bring him down. The squares are illustrated. The top of the ladder depicts a God, or one of the various heavens (Kaelash Parwat, Vaekunth Lok, Brahm Lok) and so on, while the bottom describes a good quality. Conversely, each snake’s head is a negative quality or an Asur (-Demon, Rakshas, Giant). As the game progresses, the various Karm-deeds and Sanskar, good deeds and bad, take one up and down the board. Interspersed are plants, people and animals.
The game serves a dual purpose: entertainment, as well as dos and don’ts, divine reward and punishment, ethical values and morality. The final goal leads to Vaekunth or heaven, depicted by Vishnu surrounded by his devotees, or Kaelash with Bhagwan Shiv, Maa Parvati, Ganesh Ji and Skand-Bhagwan Kartikey and their devotees. In this age of moral and ethical degeneration, this would be a good way of teaching values to children who think they already know more than their parents.
If Param Padam teaches moral values, Pallenkuli develops skill and quick thinking. Two players compete on a board consisting of between seven and twenty pits per player; each player has to collect the coins or shells or seeds with which the game is played, the player with the maximum number being the winner. There are nine variations of this game, each a ‘pandi’, with regional, caste and religious variations. It was very popular among women and required a good memory and alertness, as they had to count and remember the number of coins or seeds accumulated by the opponent.