No, I’m not referring to Doctor Who’s animal-skin wearing companion, though it’s possible that her name was inspired by this game.

Leela, or Snakes and Arrows, is the allegedly ancient Hindu game from which Snakes and Ladders (known in America as Chutes and Ladders) is derived. The game-play should be familiar to most everyone: roll the die, count the boxes, and move up or down if you land on an arrow or a snake, respectively. Be the first to reach the end of the path.

Like many classic games, the game’s mechanics are deeply rooted in spiritual or moral themes (as were The Game of Goose, The Mansion of Happiness, The Game of Life; Ben Franklin wrote a piece on the moral messages of Chess). The die roll is your karma. The arrows are your good deeds. The snakes are your sins. In Leela, every level is  associated with a chakra, and every square with a meditation. Your piece must be a significant object of yours, such as a ring that you wear.

The late Harish Johari wrote an explanatory book full of yoga and mysticism called The Yoga of Snakes and Arrows: The Leela of Self-Knowledge (published together with a fold-out game board by Sanatan Society). It was first published in 1980 and went through a number of printings.

You can also play Leela online. If you read Russian.