Chitrashala Press

Chitrashala Press, Poona, India

The Chitrashala Press of Pune (formerly Poona) was located in West Central India in today’s Maharashtra state where the Marathi language is spoken. Chitrashala Press endeavoured to print traditional Indian cards (Dasavatara Ganjifa) in the same style as hand-painted Indian cards. They also produced some charming children’s pictorial alphabet cards for early learning purposes.

The Children’s Alphabetical Packs, c.1940

At least three different editions of the cards were published; two with Marathi text and a third edition in Urdu. The cards were obviously intended as a game for fun but also with an educational agenda, i.e. the teaching of reading, matching and etiquette.

Above: cards from the first edition of picture playing cards for children, published by Chitrashala Press, Pune, India, c.1940. The images on the numeral cards show everyday objects such as ships, trains, rivers, a holy man or yogi, fruit, animals and a fire altar. The Kings and Queens are Maharajas and Maharanis and the Jacks are princes.

Above: second edition of picture playing cards for children, virtually identical to the first edition but with new illustrations for the court cards, published by Chitrashala Press, Pune, India, c.1940. The Kings and Queens show a Maharaja and Maharani, and the Jacks are princes. The Roman letters K, Q and J are used to denote the ranks of the court cards. There are no Arabic number indices, but the values of the numeral cards are shown in the bottom left-hand corners. At the top of the cards are the first letter of the words written in Marathi, in the opposite colour to that of the suit sign.

Above: cards from the Urdu edition of picture playing cards for children, published by Chitrashala Press, Pune, India, c.1940. This edition shares the same educational objectives as the Marathi packs but depicts characteristics of Muslim culture such as a mosque, etc. The court cards share the same images as the second Marathi edition.

Educational or Instructional playing cards have been around since the 16th century. See also: Logica Memorativa by Thomas Murner, 1507Robert Morden's Map Cards, 1676Arms of English Peers, 1686Proverbial Cards, 1698Mechanical Instruments, c.1700Geistliche Karten, 1718Cartes Questions-Devinettes, c.1840Happy FamiliesJaques' Illustrated Proverbs, c.1885Spanish Instructional Cards, 1888Japanese Uta GarutaChildren's Maxim Cards from UruguayChange for a Shilling, c.1930Snip Snap, 1968Learn Thai Playing Cards, 2009


Gordhandas, Kishor: Playing-Cards of the Chitrashala Press - part 1, in 'The Playing-Card', Journal of the International Playing-Card Society, vol.30, no.3, Nov/Dec 2001, pp.132-138.

See also: Dasavatara Ganjifa

Last Updated October 24, 2020 at 04:08pm


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