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Mysuru Ganjifa Art

The name “Ganjifa” derives from Persian word “Ganjifeh” which means playing cards. Indian card game was popularized during the Mughal period. With the arrival of handmade paper this game became more of a royal amusement and was patronized by the badshahs. It is in this period that with the Persian and Arabic influence, originally one thousand year old playing cards from India known as Kreeda Patra in Sanskrit was called Ganjifa. “Ganj” refers to money or Treasure and playing for stakes which became a favorite diversion among the aristocrats.

The Ganjifa with a dozen different styles (Bengal, Kashmir, Himalaya, Orissa, Rajasthan, Konkan Karnataka etc) exhibiting regional influence in its shades of colors, line and themes however are more than a means of game today. In  Karnataka Sri Mummadi Krishnadevaraja Wodeyar, the king of princely state Mysore brought a great cultural and religious revival of the Ganjifa art in the 18th century (1794-1868) and formulated a new form of Kreeda Patra comprising of 18 games which was known as “chada” or “DewarAata” (God’s game).  Introduction of European Cards in 19th century gradually lead to the decline of Ganjifa card players getting much attracted to the novel figures of French King, Queen and Jack.

Chanced upon 200 years old Ganjifa originals and fascinated by the beauty of the Ganjifa paintings the art was once again revived and was taken to a new height in early 1980’s (1981-1982) by Mysuru Artist.

The unique feature of the Mysore Ganjifa cards lie in the fact that these are traditionally hand-painted typically on circular or oval cards, using natural colors rich in minerals , vegetable dyes with fine squirrel hair brush adhering to the traditional tools and techniques. The Various mediums like Ivory, tortoise shell, mother of pearl, gold and silver are extensively used to create intricate works framed in circular shape. Works of Mysore Ganjifa is largely on the ancient Hindu scripts created in handmade paper, cloth or sandalwood.

Themes from Hindu epics like Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Baghavatha and a whole Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, Sages, Ferocious demons and Apsaras (nymphs) have inspired and extended the art form from playing cards to Artistic wall frames today.  

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