It is said that Mughals brought the game to India, in the 16th Century and was quite popular in the court of Akbar. The cards were circular or square in shape and was initially made of Ivory, Tortoise shell, Wood, Silver, Palm leaf and Paper.
Hinduisation & Revival of Ganjifa
Shri Krinshnaraja Wadiyar III (1794-1868), an expert Ganjifa player himself, revived the game, as God’s play and wrote several Books. He himself developed new plays like Chamundeshwari (320 Crads), Pancha Pandavas (210 Cards), Jagan Mohana (210 Cards), Naveena rama (36 Cards). The famous literary work, Sri Tattva Nidhi of Shri Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, containing Iconography and Iconometry of divine figures of South India, contains the details of the Ganjifa plays.
Today the game struggles for existence in few pockets of Mysore, Maharashtra, Odisha, Nirmal (Andhra Pradesh) & Bishnupur (West Bengal).
Sample of royal decks, survive in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Spielkarten museum at Leinfelden; Germany and Museum Fur Volkerkunde, Vienna.
A Game consist of number of Cards, grouped into Suits. The Suits are further divided as Strong and Weak. The Symbol on the Card, indicates its Value. The Cards are divided Equally among players, player with highest denomination starts the game. The sequence of each card is arranged, 10 for strong suits and 10 for weak suits. Finally, the Individual with highest number of sequenced denominations wins the Game.
Benefits and Belief
The Game besides testing memory also provides a good retention of traditional knowledge. It is believed that the evocation of sentences like “your Rama did this”, “your Matsya lost” and “my Narashima won”, is said to remit sins.
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