Ganjifa:  A Historical Perspective

Ganjifa as a word signifies playing cards or card games in India, Nepal, Iran, some Arab countries and Turkey. The origin of the word Ganjifa is obscure. Gunj is a Persian word meaning treasure, treasury or minted money. Although the derivation of the word Ganjifa is not fully established, there is one factor in favour of it. There is always one money suit named after a coin of local currency. Six cards from a Moghul Ganjifa set that has the same buff background in all suits.

It is difficult to tell when card games made their first appearance in India. But there is evidence to show that Ganjifa playing cards were in use in India as far back as the seventh century A.D. or earlier. Playing cards were apparently not known in India before the beginning of the sixteenth century. They were introduced under the first Moghul Rulers who brought them from their ancestral homes of Central Asia.

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