Raja Ravi Varma's Playing Cards

Much has been written about the late Raja Ravi Varma (1848 - 1906), the great painter from Trivandrum and his immortal paintings. Special exhibitions of Ravi Varma's paintings have been held at Trivandrum and at New Delhi, and slide illustrated talks have been given in Mumbai and other cities. The articles and talks go into great detail about his paintings, calendar art and the printing press he started in Bombay in 1894. The articles discuss in detail the reproductions of Indian puranic and religous themes. They fail to even mention the beautiful and colourful playing cards that were printed at the press after it was moved to Lonavla.

The exact number of different decks produced by the Raja Ravi Varma Press is not known, but two of them are described here.

The first is a Historical pack with Moghul rulers, their Begums and armed guards.


Tamerlane (1336 - 1405)
Noor-Jehan Begum
Akhbar Shah (1542 - 1605)
Motee Begum
Shah Jehan (1582 - 1666)
Taj Mahal Begum
Aurangzebe (1618 - 1707)
Zenat Mahal Begum


This deck, like the others was published by the Raja Ravi Varma Press after his death in 1906. The captions on the court cards are in English, and the printing was likely done by nine or ten colour chromolithography.

The Ace of Spades displays the trade mark "RRV" and the words "TRADE MARK RAVI VARMA PRESS KARLI BOMBAY".

King, Queen and Jack of Diamond

King, Queen and Jack of Spades


King, Queen and Jack of Hearts


King, Queen and Jack of Clubs

The second pack has Indian mythological figures for the court cards.
Nala Raja
Damayanti Rani
Raj Hans
Shri Ramachandra
Shri Sitadevi
Shri Hanuman
Harishchandra Raja
Taramati Rani
Sage Vishwamitra
Dushyant Raja
Shakuntala Rani

The court card captions on this deck are written in Hindi. The Ace of Spades shows the trade mark "RRV" and the words "TRADE MARK RAVI VARMA PRESS KARLA-LONAVLA".



Nala Raja, Damayanti Rani and Raj Hans

Shri Ramachandra, Shri Sitadevi and Shri Hanuman

Harishchandra Raja, Taramati Rani and Sage Vishwamitra

Dushyant Raja, Shakuntala Rani and Sutradhar

All of the material of this  web site is copyright © by Kishor Gordhandas.