With the advent of technology, many forms of traditional arts and games have faded away. Ganjifa is one such game, lost to the sands of time. The origins of this ancient Indian card game can be traced back to the Mughal era.
The word Ganjifa is derived from the Persian word ‘Ganj’, which means treasure trove. During the 16th century, the cards were designed on sandalwood and ivory, etched with colours of silver and gold and embedded with precious stones.
These cards were not only popular with aristocrats, but also among the locals. The latter would make the cards by pasting layers of clothes and hand paint over them. These had paintings of acrobats, dancers, warriors, hunters, musicians, animals and birds, and were primarily circular in shape, although rectangular ones were also made.
As their popularity spread across the country, each region developed its own version of making the cards and motifs. In the 19th century, the Maharaja of Mysore, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, helped popularise the cards. He had even formulated a version of the game that required 36 to 360 cards.
By the 18th and 19th century, the cards were played in temple courtyards as well as in the royal palaces. Today, Ganjifa cards are made in the homes of a handful of artists and played by even fewer people.
To know more about the history of these exquisite cards, and bring alive the age-old magic of the game, watch this video.