Ganjifa playing cards

From India, 18th century AD

These beautiful circular ganjifa playing cards are made of lacquered cloth and individually hand painted. They are a Mughal pack - that is, they depict in 8 suits life in the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great (AD 1542-1605). The suits are crowns, gold and silver coins, swords, servants, harps, documents and stores. Each suit has two court cards - a King and a Vizier or Minister. Although distinct in design, there are enough similarities with the modern international pack of four suits for a historical connection to be assumed, although this is not known for certain.

This particular pack is significant in that it belonged to Sir Warren Hastings, who was made first Governor-General of India in 1773. He resigned in 1784 and was subsequently prosecuted for the questionable methods, among them extortion, by which he significantly expanded British rule. He was found innocent but the trial, which lasted nine years, financially ruined him.

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Museum number

Asia OA 1998.10.5.1

not found on MERLIN


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