Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Ganjifa Man

I had a couple of goals on our Indian holiday, including to try lots of new things, and to get some ganjifa cards. Let us say I wasn't considering the second and had severe misgivings about the first when we arrived in Bangalore and saw this sign:

It turned out this was just around the corner from where we were staying, and holding each other's hand tightly and chanting to ourselves "just looking not buying", Scrabblette and I walked over to see what was going on. It turned out what was going on was that a bunch of stalls had been set up in the car park of the Reliance Mart, selling various handicrafts. This was the type of stuff that we'd been desperately avoiding all holiday, but we were somewhat more relaxed when the salesmen weren't so pushy. I particularly liked the stuff at one stall, from which we eventually brought home this little guy:

Scrabblette mentioned that this was the sort of art work done in Orissa, which we weren't going to. As we were looking through the items we found a round piece which Scrabblette identified as a ganjifa card. We'd actually seen ganjifa cards earlier in the trip, in the museum in Mysore, but only one set had been on display and we weren't allowed to take photos. The attendant at the museum said they had lots of them in the store room :-(.

Anyway, we asked the Orissa guy whether he knew where we could get ganjifa cards, and he said that he did in fact have some, but not at the stall. He'd made them himself and people didn't buy them. Woohoo! He didn't want to tell us the price till we'd seen them, so we suspected they were expensive. However, one set took him 22 days at 3 hours per day - hand painted - so what should we expect? By the way, here's Orissa guy's card:

We went off to Hampi for a few days, and when we got back eventually organised to get back to the stall when he was actually there - shops open late in India, which really didn't work for an impatient Australian trying to fit a holiday into winter daylight hours. Sure enough, as promised, he had several sets of ganjifa cards, of which we bought this one:

The horrifying price was 2500 rupees, i.e. about $A60, which I was happy to pay. I was also thinking about potentially paying a $A75 quarantine fee to get them irradiated if necessary (I think they're painted on palm leaf), so I didn't expect this project to be dirt cheap in the first place. In any case, Orissa guy and I both went away happy.

I've been looking for rules for games with them, but haven't got any authoritative descriptions yet. Apparently there is Naqsh which is basically poker, and that doesn't interest me at all; but there are also Hamrang and Ekrang. My best knowledge so far is that they're some sort of trick taking game, where you have to play 2 cards per trick. I'll post again when I've figured it out.


Chris Shaffer said...

OK, now I need to learn about these, but first I need to get some. Wow, those are impressive.

Nishant said...

You can even order a Mughal Ganjifa from They have made it beautifully.