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Ganjifa Playing Cards – Art of Sawantwadi

May 01, 2018 2 min read

I remember spending all my summers playing various games all day long! We were about 12-15 boys and girls of various ages living in a neighbourhood of 5 buildings and we lived to play! Lagori, Chor-Police, Dog-and-the-bone  & Dodge-ball were the all time favourite team games that were played in the little compounds of one building or another. When for some parent-enforced outings came in the way and reduced our group size, we’d play badminton or just throw-ball.

But in the afternoons, it was too hot to play outdoors, so after rushing back to play after lunch at our respective homes, when we’d congregate again, the parent-mafiosi would force us indoors into one home or another.

There we’d sit on the floor and play card games. Rummy, Seven-Eight, Two-Three-Five, Napolean, Bluff, Mendicote, 304 and more. All with just one or two packs of regular playing cards. Games of chance and strategy. Taught by older kids to the younger ones, all passing it forward into eternity. [or at least until the arrival of the smartphone].

In those day, for all of us, games or friends – two inseparably intertwined factors – were the reason for our existence. In our perception, food, sleep and all adults were just there to support our high-adrenalin beloved game-time with our friends!

If I could find the inventor of games, I’d be happy to reward her with a quarter of the antique textiles in my collection in exchange for the blissful childhood received!!!

And so Ganifa cards – playing cards after all – have a special place in my heart.

Sawantwadi was one of the important centres of production and usage of these – others being Mysore, Rajasthan and other places in the North.

Here are some images of the Ganjifa in the Sawantwadi Palace.


Sawantwadi - 2017-77Sawantwadi - 2017-76Sawantwadi - 2017-79Sawantwadi - 2017-81Sawantwadi - 2017-82Sawantwadi - 2017-85Sawantwadi - 2017-84Sawantwadi - 2017-83

Sawantwadi - 2017-50

Sawantwadi - 2017-49

An effort is being made to keep the art alive even though the demand is almost non-existent except as “folk art” rather than as functional card games.

Sawantwadi - 2017-27Sawantwadi - 2017-28Sawantwadi - 2017-29Sawantwadi - 2017-30Sawantwadi - 2017-31Sawantwadi - 2017-33Sawantwadi - 2017-34Sawantwadi - 2017-35

If only I knew how to play the game – it might be a good alternative to the fast-paced UNO that we now play a lot!

See images of an antique Mughal Ganjifa in the woven souls collection set here. 



May 2018


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