India is a land of cultures and traditions and this is the defining characteristic of our country. The diversity, the evolution of certain traditions through the sands of time has earned us the identity of being unified despite the oddities. Playing cards have been one of the social acts that brought people of different descents closer.
Against the popular belief, card games have been an integral part of our country’s culture. Albeit the origin of this culture has been unknown to humankind, it can be traced well back to the period when India was ruled by Mughal emperors.
The historians can vouch for the fact that cards existed well before modern times. They have found various kinds of hand-painted cards made out of cotton fibres, wood, ivory, hardened paper, and many such ingredients.
How Did a Deck of Playing Cards Look Then?
With the arrival of the Mughal Dynasty, people from Iran, Armenia, Spain, Europe, entered India spraying their culture all over the country. These foreigners brought the culture of playing cards in the Indian mainland. Unlike the popular cards used in contemporary times, the cards used to be round or oval in shape earlier. In the Persian language, these were called ganjifa.
The first ever mention of playing cards was in Mughal Emperor Babur’s memoir, Baburnama where they talked about sending exquisite, hand-painted playing cards to a friend in Persia.
Initially, these games were restricted to only the royal families, but it spread like wildfire to other parts of the country thereafter. Every community had its own version of the game. The Hindu community designed a game called Dashavatara Ganjifa, which had ten incarnations of God Vishnu painted on the cards. The main aim was to teach, learn and tell stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and many other Hindu scriptures.
Since then the tradition of playing cards has travelled and evolved through time with various European countries ruling parts of the subcontinent to modern India. The games turned from the Mughal (Moghul Ganjifa) and the Hindu version (Dashavatara Ganjifa) to the latest versions. These versions were now influenced by a plethora of cultures such as the Spanish, German and the French. As a matter of fact, the card games Indians play now are largely influenced by the French ways.
Thus, it goes without saying that the concept of playing cards have now been ingrained in our minds. Playing with our grandparents and cousins during vacations have been one of the fond memories of everyone in the country. With the introduction of online card gaming apps, the love for games such as poker, rummy and more has only increased.