As new gambling games come into modern existence it is sad that these unique games are relegated as pieces of history. The circular cards are today a part of arts and crafts in India. For the last fifty years no one has bothered to revive these games. There is only one surviving craftsman who is continuing the tradition of making these pictorial circular cards. The Chitari community only artisan, Pudnalik Govind Chitari recently died. But not before training some youngsters. Will they be able to continue this legacy? Only time will tell. Although they are routinely doing the painting of these pictorial cards how many card game enthusiasts will support them. They are based in Sawantwadi.
Tracing the history of the circular cards, one has to go back to nearly 300 years. The round playing cards did not originate in Sawantwadi. In the 8th century AD, Malla kings of West Bengal, India started the tradition of playing these circular cards. The circular cards games were also popular in Orrisa, Jaipur, Cuddapah in South India. Every place has its own artists who created the pictorial motifs on circular boards. Each also had its distinct identity. In northern India Navgraha was important and in the south dashavatar was popular. Sadly the other places no longer have any artisans left to make these circular cards. But all is not lost as Sawantwadi still continues the tradition. The Maharastra government is supporting the artisans of the Chitari community and giving them a source of livelihood too. All is not lost in the annals of card playing history. An Austrian who was so intrigued by these circular cards made comprehensive compilation and now they are in a museum in Vienna. A set of ganjifa cards contains 120 cards. The box in which the circular cards is also beautifully designed.
Playing cards worldwide throw light on history and times of different eras in society. Circular playing cards may not be known today but at one time they were very popular. Entertainment keeps changing roud the clock all over the world. There is a difference between mindless entertainment and good entertainment. The fact that memories, skill strategies and ingenuity were tested reveal that these card games were much more than just entertainment. Despite the fact that they are being relegated to dust those remaining continue to boggle the mind.