Exploring The History of Gambling in India

Exploring The History of Gambling in India

Gambling is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the present times all over the world. The scenario is not different in India either. In India too, gambling is one of the top choices for entertainment among adults in the present times. But gambling in the present times, although has been able to cater to the interest of many, gambling games have been attached with taboos in recent times. Moreover, there are many legal obligations relating to gambling games in the present day restricting gambling games only to individuals above 18 years of age.

A recent emerging trend in the current times relating to gambling is the predominance of online gambling games. A new trend has started currently which involves gambling using online websites. In online gambling, an online bookmaker is used to gamble in different games such as sports games, or traditional gambling games such as blackjack, slot games, roulette, etc. The recent scenario of gambling can be summed up as we have already mentioned above. But what was the scenario of gambling games in the historical times in India? The present article aims to explore the history of gambling in Indian lands in ancient times.

There have been multiple references to gambling in the Indian epics which have been discussed here as follows.

Gambling in a positive light

The mention of gambling games can be found in the famous epic Ramayana which led historians to believe that gambling games have been existent on the Indian land for as long as 7300 BC. Mention of gambling using board games, using of chess boards as well as the use of playing dice for gambling has been found in Ramayana. The gambling games using games were known as Aksa whereas all other types of gambling games were called devana. It is assumed that the concept of “I lost my shirt” came from the ancient practice of relieving the losing party in the gambling game of their clothes and ornaments.

This shedding of clothes has been compared with the shedding of fruits of trees due to the powerful shaking of Hanuman an important character in the epic Ramayana. One thing is certain that gambling is seen in a positive light in Ramayana, only as a source of entertainment but no taboo is attached to it whatsoever. But the scenario is a little different in the case of another famous epic, Mahabharata.

Gambling in A Slightly Negative Light

The epic Mahabharata was written in 3200 BC featured gambling in a negative light which might be the reason why the taboo relating to gambling games started in India in the first place. A central and most important theme of the epic is that the protagonist loses all his property and his kingdom due to the evil conspiracy of the antagonists which involved playing gambling games by using dice. The protagonist was conspired to lose not only his kingdom but also his family and his beloved wife in gambling which forced the protagonist to go to exile for 12 years too.

Devices Used in Gambling Games in Ancient Times as Known from Ancient Scriptures 

As records have been derived from the ancient Buddhist texts, it mentions the use of the nuts of the Vibhitaka tree as dice for playing different types of gambling games. This practice dated back to as early as 300 BC. The ancient board gambling games were known as pasa. Records of gambling of different animal fights such as cockfight, ram fight, etc. Is also found in the ancient texts. But later on, things got much more civilized and gambling on animal fights was stopped. Instead, gambling on a horse race was introduced. This concept of horse race gambling is prevalent in society even today. It is noteworthy that even though Europe is credited for the discovery of gambling games but ancient European dice and cards which were found by historians consisted of Indian symbols.


Thus through this article, we have explored the rich history of gambling in ancient times in India. We have explored the glorious history of gambling in Indian land from board games to online gambling with the help of an online bookmaker in the present times.