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Durable Link to this BlogMonday, June 24, 2002

Ganjifa Card Games

Ancient Hindu Card Games

Indians have played card games from ancient times. The cards featured Hindu deities and mythological figures. Manuscripts Babur· nama and Ain·e·Akbari of Mogul times and Sritattvanidhi of Mysore Wodeyars provide details of the game. Sritattvanidhi mentions thirteen different types of card games played by nobles and royalty of the period. A total of 636 cards are figured with pictures of major and minor deities. Three, four or six people could play the game by placement of cards depending on anecdotes from mythology.

Laxman meets Vali

The Navagriha Ganjifa was a game with 108 cards divided into  nine suites representing nine planets. But the popular variety was that of Dashavatar or ten incarnations of Vishnu. Each incarnation had additional cards of the king, the minister and knights. Players equidistributed the cards and conquered  the smaller  cards with a more powerful card. The rules of determining the power varied from state to state.

Ganjifa cards were usually circular in shape and varied from 20mm to 120 mm in diameter. They had beautiful paintings of deities in avatars on them. They were made of ivory, tortoise shell or mother of pearl as per the status of the players. The poor played with Ganjifa cards made of paper, starched cloth or thin wood with figures. Birds, women, plants, and creepers also figured on them.

See Related Topics:
• The Ganjifa Art
• When the Moguls Ruled India …
• The Mysore Collection
• See pictures of Ganjifa Cards in Kamat PICTURESearch

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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