Sunday, February 9, 2014

A&S 50 Challenge: Moghul Ganjifa

I've been researching this particular game off and on for the last two years.  It was NOT an easy one.

Moghul Ganjifa   
Cards designed by Cigan Osznite/ Janin Wise for SCAdian use/ non commercial use.

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.  The Moghul Ganjifa having 96 cards in the standard eight suits of 12 cards each is variously known as CHANGA-KANCHAN in Sawantwadi and CHANGA-RANI in Andhra Pradesh. It is known as Navagunjara in parts of Orissa. The latter retains the suit names and signs of the Moghul Ganjifa but replaces figures on the court cards with those of Hindu divinities and heroes.   

There are at least three different games that are played with Moghul Ganjifa cards.

The first two are called Hamrang and Ekrang.  These are a more complicated game similar to Bridge. For both, the suites are divided into two groups.  The king and minister are always the highest cards, but in one game, the suits of the pip cards rank from the 10 (below the minister) down to the 1 (lowest), while in the other they rank in the reverse direction from the 1 (below the minister) down to the 10 (lowest).

These games are meant for 3-5 players.

The rules, as described to Kishor Gordhandas:  One person should mix or shuffle the 96 cards. All the 96 cards should then be kept in a pile face down, in the centre of the dais.  Each player should pick one card from the top of the pile. The player with the highest valued card should start the game.

The following chart shows the values of each of the 96 Ganjifa cards:

Name of suit      Colour  Ranking, Highest to Lowest         Marker
Barat                     Red        King, Vazier, 1 through 10            Ax
Surya                     Blue       King, Vazier, 1 through 10            Cobra
Kumancha           Yellow  King, Vazier, 1 through 10            Turtle
Cheng                   Green   King, Vazier, 1 through 10            Shell
Phul                       Orange                 King, Vazier, 10 through 1            Sword
Ghulam                                White   King, Vazier, 10 through 1            Lightning Bolt
Shamsher            Brown   King, Vazier, 10 through 1            Flower
Chandra               Black     King, Vazier, 10 through 1            Fish

To divide the “upper” suite from the lower, I have reversed the direction of the Vazier and King.  **Please be aware that the pip markers are not absolute across all Ganjifa decks, nor are the colors.   It is divided by geographic reason and artist choice.  Phul is sometimes  orange or yellow orche.  Brown is sometimes pink or purple.  Barat is sometimes an ax, a loop of rope, a club, a staff, or a flute.  Surya- trident, water vessel, cobra, bull, or conch shell.  Kumancha- fire, turtle, crocodile, archery,or  feather.  Cheng- gazelle, antelope, shell, or goad.  Phul- sword, pigeons, or tigers.  Ghulam- white oxen, bull, elephant, lightning bolt, sun, or flute.  Shamsher- ram, fire, parrots, peacocks, sun, or flower. Chandra- camel, jewels, coins, snakes, or fish.
The player getting the highest valued card, as per the above chart, will start dealing the cards, four at a time, to each player from his right side (in an anti-clockwise direction) till all players get 24 cards each.
Between Sunrise (morning) and Sunset (evening) is known as the daytime. If the game is played during the daytime, the player with the King (Raja) of the Surya (Surkh) (Blue) suit shall start the game. He should play this Surya Raja along with one other card of no use or low value card from the Surya suit, and if not, one such card from any other suit. The other three players follow suit and each should play any two low value cards from their hands. The winner (player who started the game with the Surya Raja) takes all the eight cards laid on the dais as his first hand.

Between the Sunset and Sunrise, that is, when the game is played during the night time, the one who has the King of Chandra (Safed) (Black) suit will lead the game and the same procedure as in #6 should be followed.

The next round of play should be started by the same player. Suppose this player has a Vazier/Pradhan of any suit or colour (and no Raja of that particular suit), to bring the value up of the same, he should play one low valued card of the same suit as that of his Vazier. Now the player having the Raja (or King) of the played suit should play the Raja of that colour. The remaining two players should play any low valued cards. This hand of four cards will go to the player playing the Raja card. Again, the winner of this trick will play in the similar way, so that the value of the suit of the Vazier he would play would be brought up. This will continue and the TAS, (cards) will go to each and every player until one player will lose all the high valued cards (as per the above chart).

The loser will now have to keep all the cards remaining in his hand face down on the playing dais.
The person sitting opposite the loser will now ask the loser to give him one card from those laid face down, but not the top or the bottom card. The loser plays the card thus selected by the opposite person.
Again the play will continue in the usual way as played, but the loser cannot take the TAS or win any round because he has no valuable cards with him. He will play the game simply like that along with the others.
After this, all high valued cards such as Raja-Vazier will bill be no more with any player. So the players will try to make the value up of other cards (like 10, 9, 8 in Phul (Taj), Ghulam, Shamsher and Chandra and 1, 2, 3, ... in Barat, Kimancha, Surya and Cheng) by playing the low valued cards of the same colour/suit. In this way, play will continue till all the cards get over.

Finally, the person who has more sets or hands of cards (one hand is 4 cards) will take the stake or money as decided in the beginning of play. For example, the loser may pay Rs. 5 per one set. Less than six sets is the loser, more than six sets is the winner.

Naqsh is a banking game in which the aim is to have cards adding up to 17 or 21, or various other special combinations. For purpose the picture cards count 12 and 11 and the pip cards have their face value.   Rules by G. U. O’Donnell  1877 : 

A game for 5-7 players.  Usually the suite of swords is removed to play Naqsh.

Naqsh is very much like the western Baccarat or Vingte-et-Un card games where the combination of cards in one’s hand must come to a total of 17 or 21 in order to win the stakes.   For making Naqsh of 17 points, there is no limit to the number of cards to be taken.  But for 21, it must be declared with 2 cards only—a mire (king) and a 9 or a pair made of of Ghodi (vizier) and a ten. 

All cards are thoroughly shuffled and placed in the center of the circle of players.  Each player takes one from the top and counts the pips.  Whosoever in two draws gets 17 pips or the nearest number below that number wins the stakes unless there are some who have drawn minor number and wish to try in a third or fourth draw or someone has made 21.


You can download this game with all the other 11 x 17 games here:

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately there are some issues with this version of the rules, for example "the same procedure as in #6 should be followed" yet there is no item marked (6). My guess is that the version on Kishor's site was copy and pasted from an earlier version with numbered paragraphs, and that the numbers were lost somehow in the process. This particular error is easy enough to fix (just replace "as in #6" with "as above"), but I have not examined the rest in detail.

    I don't know if this interests you, but I invented my own game for Moghul Ganjifa, which I will link my name to in this comment. If you're inclined to try it at some stage, I would love to hear your thoughts. You seem to have a variety of creative interests; have you ever tried your hand at inventing a game, especially one that puts a new spin on traditional equipment?


I'd love to hear your thoughts!