Reconnect With These Fascinating Board Games From Ancient India

Reconnect With These Fascinating Board Games From Ancient India
Sophie Johari

The nostalgic memory of playing elaborate board games with our family and friends is well known to each one of us. We used to seek out this time of pure leisure and entertainment which helped us connect with one another. These games brought together members of all age groups with their simplistic narratives and became the perfect mediums of rest and escape from our fast-paced lifestyles.

At a time when the entire world is embracing slow living and community spirit, it is time to bring these gems back. It is interesting how each one of the renowned board games has an Indian origin which is correlated with fantasy, fiction and mythology. While the contemporary versions are fascinating, here are some of the original board games from ancient India that can really engross you in the spirit of play. 


An ancient Indian board game that even finds mention in the epic tale of Mahabharata under the Sanskrit term 'pasha'. Pacheesi has unique origins that can be traced back to the most vital war in Hindu mythology where it played a significant role within the matters of gambling and power exchange. A game that is now popularised around the world and even sells as a westernised version known as the ‘Game of Little Horses’ finds many mentions in our history. It is believed that Mughal emperor Akbar played a version of Pacheesi with his courtiers in Fatehpur Sikri. Furthermore this is also the game that inspired the creation of Ludo. 

Find the board game here.

Ramayana Vanavaas

A board game that follows the story of three main characters in the mythological narrative of Ramayana, Ram, Sita and Lakshman was originally used to pass on the rich tales to a younger generation. It follows their adventures into the forest where these characters were exiled for fourteen long years according to the ancient texts. You can start with the first series as two to four players can play using paduka-shaped (traditional sandals) game pieces to navigate through Vanvaas (exile). It is an interesting journey where one goes through all the major incidents and you can further invest in the other two series to continue the epic tale.

Find the board game here.

Snakes & Ladders

A world famous board game that originated in ancient India, Saanp Seedhi or Snakes & Ladders was played at a time as early as 2nd century BC. The game was originally used to part moral instructions to young children by signalling to lessons of virtue and greed, as well as to warn against evil represented by snakes. Over time it transformed into an engrossing board game arena where one is against the looming threat of serpents. You can play this game the old school way by investing in a handcrafted cloth version that can be utilised as a dart board as well. 

Find the board game here.


Perfect for family reunions or get-togethers, Dadu is a board game that was originally popularised by the Gujarati Bohra community. Rooted in war-time strategy, the cloth board really tests your talent for planning. It is a fascinating escape where even fourteen players can participate at once, the game is played in two teams that are positioned at opposite ends of the board. The objective of the Dadu is to ensure that your team crosses over all your pieces to the other side and the team that manages to do this first is declared the winner. At present embroidery artist Sophie Johari is recreating the original handmade version of Dadu which has become hard to find over the years.

You can find her board game creations here.