The History of Betting in India

The Real History of Gambling in India

Real History of Gambling in India

India has a rich account of gambling history. They are even portrayed in many documentaries and movies. But, any person proficient in Indian history will always think of gambling in a poor note. The reason – molestation of Draupadi in Mahabharata.

The incident happens when her husband Yudhishtira stakes her in a game of dice and loses her. But gambling as per the pages of Indian history existed longer before the Mahabharata.

Gambling During Ramayana

In the Ramayana, gambling is written in lesser importance and years of the happenings of this great epic is believed to be in 7300 BC.

The description points to gambling board, and historians believe people of those ages played chess and dice. Aksa is the name given to the gambling board and the other popular name is devana. However, gambling is not condemned in this period.

Gambling During Mahabharata

It was during the period of Mahabharata, that the tone towards gambling changes to a negative addiction. The events also fold in a destructive tone. In this great epic, the righteous man, Yudhishthira loses his kingdom, wealth, his brothers and even his wife to a game of dice (gambling).

Worse, he is ordered to go for 12 years in exile and one year in hiding. Betting in gambling during those periods had really harsh laws. Do not forget the fact that Shakuni in Mahabharata had the dice made of his father’s and brother’s bones.

The age when the Mahabharata events folded, as per the historians conclude is 3200 BC. There are reports that it could also have happened in 120 BC or 800 BC.

Gambling During Mahabharata

Gambling Devices in India

It is a wrong notion that Ramayana and Mahabharata were the only old epics that describe gambling. Buddhist texts give description of the game played with Vibhitaka tree nuts. The inscriptions date back to 300 BC.

Gambling Devices in India after Mahabharata

Years later, astragali replaced the nuts and that is how the game of Passa came to practice. Very soon, the Indians found many new methods to gamble. Some examples are –

  • Ram fights
  • Cock fights
  • Horse racing

This was the time when the Indians used to gamble without concern of tomorrow. The result, the gambler loses every possession and his life ends in despair. So, the epics, religious texts, hymns written in these times point to gambling as a social evil.

Gambling in India after the 10th Century

Not many know that India was a hotbed of gambling houses in the 15th century. Yet, these gambling houses had to follow strict laws as per the local Government. The practices and rules ensured that the gambling is conducted in a fair and orderly manner. The reason, the players had to submit a part of their income profits as tax to the King.

Contribution of Europeans To Gambling

The Europeans have devised many new online gambling games. A good example of this today is But the same games contained Indian Symbols. The British had gained considerable control of the entire India by the 17th century. Cricket is a sport that became popular as a gambling game.

Next, the British introduced horse racing events. Gambling houses grew in number, and to curb them, the British introduced the Public Gambling Act in the year 1867. As per this law, any individual cannot own a gambling house and this law considers it an illegal activity.

Now, in 2019, there are very few changes in the same law, but online gambling remains in a grey zone in India. Games such as Rummy has been accepted as a game of skill than gambling.

Gambling in India in the Recent Times

Cricket has become one of the most popular sports in the globe. Though hockey is the national sport of India, it is cricket that has caught people’s fancy. It is this game which has been turned into a gambling sport and there are millions who bet money during the cricket matches.


Indians, in the old ages, looked at gambling as an indoor sport played with friends as well as foes. There are times, when two kings, instead of going on war, and making loss to human life, fought over a game of dice to decide the winner. There is no escaping the fact that the game of dice belonged only to the royal families in these ages.

First Image:- Photo by JT on Unsplash  (Free for Commercial Use)

Second Image:- Photo by Heather Gill on Unsplash (Free for Commercial Use)

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