In India, gambling as a form of entertainment predates the written history. The Harrapan civilization shows the earliest archaeological evidence of gambling.
Many Indian scriptures and epics mention public affinity to gaming and gambling with chequered attitudes. Public gambling houses were typical until the British-raj introduced the Public Gambling Act, 1867 criminalizing all forms of betting activities.
So, casinos might appear western; but, games of wager and public gambling houses are no imported concept in India. The subcontinent has always been culturally lenient to gambling.
The primary reasons behind the popularity of gaming and gambling in the Indian subcontinent?
- Historically, India has always been a prosperous economy. Stories of Indian wealth had attracted too many foreigners, as invaders as well as traders.
- Indian kings and wealthy classes of people liked gambling for harmless challenges and excitements.
- Traditionally, Hinduism has a less conservative attitude and taboo towards worldly pleasures, like betting with a few exceptions.
Public gambling houses were a significant source of revenue also in various Indian states, even during the time of Kautilya.
Different historical gambling practices in India
Many modern card games are of Indian origin. Chess is Indian. And among the dice-based games, Pachisi or Pasa is a gift of India.
- Some Buddhist scriptures mention the practice of gambling with dices in the third century BC.
- Betting on the outcome of animal fights were a regular event, even before the dice-based gaming devices.
- Common animal fights in ancient India involved cocks and male sheep. Buffalo, camels, dogs, bulbuls were other animals of interest for gambling. Some of these animal fights happen even today in some parts of India. Modern horse racing came into existence much later in the country.
- Card games were familiar in sixteenth-century India. Though, many people argue that card games came, mostly, from Persia and Arabia.
There is no point in denying the fact that gambling and betting activities were well-accepted on Indian soil. We often misjudge these activities based on the experience of Pandavas in Mahabharata and put the entire blame on the gambling habit of Yudhisthira.
However, a glaring lesson from Mahabharata should be the importance of practicing responsible gaming. A round of gaming can always help us unwind in today’s stressful world without harming our sanity.
You just need to build your gaming awareness and start making informed decisions.