1381 Old Painted Ganjifa Playing Cards - Andhra Pradesh

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Set of Dashavatara Ganjifa Cards with Inscription on court cards

Inscription language appears to be Telugu

Rarely available

Stiffened & Lacquered with a thick layer of laquer that makes it thick and hard-plastic-like.

The base is probably layered & handmade paper.

Appear to have been painted on warak that gives it the iridescent effect and then lacquered.

Gold illuminated with warak to an unseen-before extent

Has inscriptions on the Court or Face Cards.

Historically this game is believed to have been brought to India and popularized during the Moghul period. The general assumption is Moghul Emperors brought the cards to India early in the sixteenth century. Once established, the cards spread to most regions of India either in the original form known as Moghul Ganjifa, or in their slightly later Hindu form; ten suits of twelve cards each, known as Dashavatara Ganjifa

Each region in the country had its own form of the game. There was the Sawantwadi Ganjifa from Maharashtra, Navadurga Ganjifa from Orrisa, Rajasthan and Gujarat Ganjifa, Kashmir Ganjifa, Nepal Ganjifa and the Mysooru Ganjifa which was greatly patronized by the Mysore Royal family during their reign.

In Maharashtra and Orissa, Ganjifa was a widespread Brahmin pastime. Old people are still seen playing Dashavatara Ganjifa near Puri Temples, mainly with 16-suited 192 card decks. A later Brahmin rationalization of this pursuit was notion that the performance of the game is pleasing to the God. Around 1885, Hari Krishna Venkataramana argued that by playing the Vishnu memorizing game, ones sins are washed away. It is said in Shri Bhagwata Purana, which invokes the name of Vaikunta through gestures, and even via joking and abuse, sins are made to wash away. If the name of the God is used during the game saying, “Your Rama did this” or “Your Matsya lost” and “My Narasimha won”, through the repetition of the God’s name sins are remitted.

 The Jayalakhmi Wodeyar Palace Museum has one group of 150 dispersed cards that are kept in the treasury and viewing is by prior request only.

Collected from India in the mid 1900s

Age unknown

They were mounted previously and have now been dismounted.

Have signs of glue / shellac used for mounting on the back of the cards.

Images intentionally blurred out.

Not for sale yet.









This item has spent a lifetime being used for the purpose of its creation with the original artist/user. Signs of this life lived heartily may be present on the piece in the form of stains, thread loss, loose threads, holes, tears, color run and other imperfections. Therefore the condition must be assumed to be “not” perfect. More photos of such imperfections will be provided on request.


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