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Published July 12, 2023 Updated July 12, 2023

Handmade Ganjifa Birds Playing Cards

This set of Ganjifa cards is a beautiful example of traditional cards from India.

1991 India Circular Hand-Painted Nature & Environment Ganjifa Add to Collection

Above: each suit consisting of 12 unique cards: numbers 1-10, followed by two court cards - the King and the Vizier or Minister.

This Ganjifa pack of cards, featuring delightful bird-themed artwork, is a unique and captivating find from a private collection I acquired in February. While their exact origin and date remain a mystery, the distinct Indian aesthetic suggests a rich cultural background.

Ganjifa, a term referring to a family of traditional card games, originated in Persia and later spread to India during the Moghul period. The cards are typically round and hand-painted, often featuring intricate designs. The games played with this pack often involve trick-taking mechanics, and the rules can vary significantly depending on the region and specific variant of the game being played.

Above: hands of an artist, Sawantwadi, 1940.

Each card in this set is a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of its creators. Handmade and individually painted, the deck comprises ten suits of 12 cards each, including 1-10 and two royal cards. The suits are differentiated by colour, and the pips are represented by various types of birds.

Above: the wooden box.

While these cards may not be as ornate as some other Ganjifa sets found out there, their simplicity and authenticity hint at a possible local tribal origin. This gives them a unique, rustic appeal that sets them apart from more elaborate versions.

The cards are made from a fairly thick material, finished with what appears to be lacquer or varnish.

This bird-themed Ganjifa pack of cards is a beautiful blend of art, culture and craftsmanship. Their unique design make them a valuable addition to any card collection.

For those interested in owning this unique pack, please feel free to contact me for purchasing details.

References

  • Leyden, Rudolf von; Ganjifa - The Playing Cards of India. (V&A Museum); London 1982
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By Ian Taylor

Member since June 20, 2022

I've played card games from the age of three, collecting all things "cards" from 16 and finally started to specialise at 58! Thanks to these wonderful pages and a certain Mr Lodge, my main interest is in British decks, with examples of the English standard pattern in other countries. I am beginning to develop a liking for Belgium and German cards, too. It's nice to be able to spend time writing profiles for WOPC, on more modern yet beautiful decks. Looking forward to retiring in April, when I can spend more time on this wonderful interest.


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