The Ganjifa or Ganjappa cards have a history dating back to the seventh century A.D. Produced majorly by two neighboring states Karnataka (Mysore) and Orissa, these circular or rectangular cards have been traditionally handcrafted and painted by artisans. Introduced to India by the Mughals, these cards, which vary between a diameter of 5 to 7 cm, were once seen as royal entertainment, and thus could not be easily afforded by the masses. Over time, these cards soon trickled down to the general public and each region in the subcontinent started making their unique Ganjifa.
“The paintings on Ganjifas or Ganjappas are all done in natural dyes. Ground, and mixed by hand, these dyes are traditionally painted on a base made of cloth, leather, mica, palm leaf, sandalwood, birch leaf, ivory, or paper. We have been using squirrel hair brushes to create the finely chiselled images and mostly use rust, cream, yellow, black, red, and green as our colors, giving the cards a distinctive feel of elegance.”
Today, very few traditional makers of this craft are left. Ganjifa is sadly on its way to becoming an antique, or a collector’s item.