Ganjifa and the Royal Patronage

During the course of travel to offbeat destinations, one comes across unique arts, practices and folklore which are a link to the rich historical past that our country possesses. In this context I came across “Ganjifa”


  Ganjifa the name of an ancient Indian game of cards, which was popularized during the reign of the Mughals. The word Ganjifa is of Persian origin and translated it means playing cards. The unique feature of these cards is that they are traditionally hand painted and circular in nature. The material used was tortoise shell and ivory in the bygone era but then over period of time this game become popular with the common public and the material then used was wood, palm leaf etc. This game spread across India and was particularly active in areas such as Sawantwadi in Maharashtra, Orissa, Mysore, Rajasthan etc.

maharastra diarties royal palace 208-1

The game of card playing was as it is a part of the Indian culture especially during functions of the community or village. In Sawantwadi, which was ruled by the Bhosales, Ganjifa attained huge popularity patronized by the royal family themselves.

Modern times

With passage of time this game has almost lost its significance, and was revived under the patronage of the Royal family of Bhosales who have taken it upon themselves to preserve and flourish the legacy of this art. More than a game Ganjifa is an art. These days the cards are made from card paper circular in design but still hand painted with intricate patterns and motifs that are crafted depicting certain specific theme. The paints used are made from natural dyes and colors. The fine brushes used are unique to this art form. The sawantwadi Ganjifa have cards depicting the following themes with the aim to teach and spread the stories in our scriptures.

  1. Ten avatars of Lord Vishnu
  2. The nine planets
  3. The Bazaar Ganjifa
  4. Darbari Ganjifa cards

It is the artist who produces these masterpieces even today, there is great skill in producing a Ganjifa card with its rich texture of colour and fine art forms depicted on a small circular paper. Different tools are used by the artist to get the shape of the card and the motif just perfect. These cards are generally consisting of a pack of 96 – 120 and come with their own unique wooden storage case.

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Owing to the persistent efforts while leading from the front, Rani Satvashiladevi Bhosale has ensured this ageing art form is revived and aligned to being in sync with the modern times. She has been instrumental in promotion of this art form and also provide an avenue to the artists to showcase and sell their products to history lovers and other like minded individuals


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5 Replies to “Ganjifa and the Royal Patronage”

  1. I would be interested in knowing more about Ganjifa. It’s looking like a very interesting game to play. Wondering how we can use the colorful circular cards in game.

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