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Regional Cards

page 2
Mughal Ganjifa
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special thanks to Jeff Hopewell, whose knowledge of Ganjifa
has been a precious reference in the compilation of this gallery

Among the known patterns, Mughal Ganjifa is the variety likely closer to the original pattern once used in Persia.

1 and 9 of Barata ("bill of exchange", very stylized)
It has 96 cards divided into eight suits, whose original names, in Farsi, underwent slight changes, according to the different languages spoken in India. A comparison between the original names and those used in the west of India (Gujarat), in the east (Orissa), in the center (Maharashtra) and in the south (Deccan) is shown in the following table, adapted from Rudolph von Leyden's Ganjifa  the playing cards of India. But they are only a few examples: many more exist in the complicated mosaic of languages of this country.

The court cards are usually referred to with their old names: vazîr (or wazîr) the minister, while the king is called shah (also padishah, or mîr, probably short for amîr, i.e. "emir").


Persian names

Bishbar suits
  • Zar is-SafÎd
  • Taj
  • Shamshîr
  • Ghulâm

    Kambar suits
  • Zar is-Surkh
  • Chang
  • Qimâsh
  • Barât
  • English

    Bishbar suits
  • White (silver) coin
  • Crown
  • Sword
  • Slave

    Kambar suits
  • Red (gold) coin
  • Harp
  • Merchandise
  • Bill of exchange
  • Gujarat

    Bishbar suits
  • Sapheda
  • Taj
  • Samashera
  • Gulama

    Kambar suits
  • Sukhama
  • Changu
  • Kumade
  • Barata
  • Orissa

    Bishbar suits
  • Chandra
  • Fula
  • Someswara
  • Gulam

    Kambar suits
  • Surya
  • Changa
  • Kumancha
  • Barata
  • Maharashtra

    Bishbar suits
  • Ruper
  • Taj
  • Samsher
  • Gulam

    Kambar suits
  • Kanchan
  • Chang
  • Khumash
  • Barat
  • Deccan

    Bishbar suits
  • Suped
  • Taj
  • Shamsher
  • Gulam

    Kambar suits
  • Surak
  • Changa
  • Kumaj
  • Varat

  • 1 and 8 of Fula

    1 and 5 of Surya
    The table shows how both the names and the meanings are somewhat similar throughout India, with a few exceptions, such as the suit of Taj ("crown"), which in Orissa was renamed Fula (represented by flower-looking shapes), and the Zar is-Surkh ("red coin / gold coin"), known in the same area as Surya ("sun", featuring the usual yellow discs).
    In most parts of India, the wazîr and shâh subjects feature human figures (the king either seated on a throne or under a canopy, the minister often mounted, with or without his retinue). But in decks made in Orissa they are replaced by characters of the local mythology and religion: the ones presented in this page show Arjuna (a hero from the epic Mahâbhârata) as a minister in Moghul-fashioned clothes, while the king is a Navagunjara, an incarnation of Krishna from nine different creatures (the body of a bull, the head of a peacock, a human right arm and an elephant's left frontleg, etc.).

    wazîr and shâh of Kumancha ("merchandise", red oval with white stripes),
    Chandra (white disc as a silver coin) and Gulam ("slave", red flower)

    page 1
    historical and general notes
    page 3
    Dasâvatâra Ganjifa
    page 4
    other Ganjifa patterns


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