One of the artefacts on display at the Indian Heritage Centre’s (IHC) new exhibition is a late 19th century version of the game – called gyan chaupur in the north and paramapadam in the south – which has banyan tree roots in lieu of the ladders and was used to trace the genealogy of its users.
“Snakes And Ladders is a game that you can trace to the early part of the Common Era. A lot of the board games that we know and play – including chess and ludo – have their roots in India,” explained IHC curator Nalina Gopal.
The artefact is one of a few objects in the section on games from the centre’s show titled Symbols And Scripts: The Language Of Craft, which runs from Dec 7 to June 13, 2018.
It features around 140 rare artefacts – from jewellery and maps to textiles and masks – that trace the subcontinent’s rich crafts and scripts traditions that stretch back five millennia, including seals that date back to 3,000 BCE and feature motifs such as the swastika and a presumed unicorn image.
The exhibition also coincides with IHC’s CultureFest event, which runs from Dec 7 to 17, and includes workshops and performances.
But Symbols And Scripts won’t just be presenting objects on display – throughout the duration of the show, the centre has also invited 15 craftspeople from all over India, who will be present to showcase their skills and even give workshops to visitors.
The different crafts include, among others, kottan (palm leaf baskets) from Tamil Nadu and wood-carving inlay from Uttar Pradesh. It kicks off with the presence of craftspeople from New Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, who will be demonstrating calligraphy and leather-puppetry-making from Dec 6 to 20.
“The Indian communities in Singapore would have had these crafts and traditions but things have gotten lost from generation to generation, so our job is to try to promote and transmit some of these, to remind us of our intangible cultural heritage,” said Saravanan Sadanandom, General Manager, IHC.
The exhibition’s focus on reconnecting with traditions also takes a more contemporary detour. A specially commissioned art installation looks at a more recently lost practice that involved the Indian diaspora in Singapore: The rubber industry in Malaya.