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From beginning life as playing cards to inspiring miniature paintings, the Ganjifa craft has certainly played an interesting hand over the few centuries of its existence!
A card game dating back to medieval India, Ganjifa was aimed at relaying stories from ancient scriptures and books. Numbering 18, these games were set to extracts from these scriptures, as well as to tales of gods and goddesses.
The cards themselves were wonders to behold, surpassed only by the beauty of the paintings they inspired! Often cited as the original miniatures, these cards were designed on either handmade paper, sandalwood or ivory pieces, etched with the richness of gold or silver.
Historically, Ganjifa paintings featured acrobats, warriors, hunters, musicians, animals and birds. As it spread its wings, however, this, too, changed, and devotional themes became a mainstay. Even today, artisans intent on reviving this craft stay as true to history as possible, not just with the iconography but with the canvas itself-stiff paper boards prepared by gluing together sheets of paper.
Another aspect that has withstood the ravages of time is the artisan’s single-minded devotion to the craft. Indeed, spending time meditating on a subject before beginning the actual process is no easy hand!