Sawantwadi

Ganjifa is tradition of Sawantwadi. It is almost three hundred years old. The craft of making the round playing cards, known as ganjifa. The technique of executing round playing cards did not originate from Sawantwadi. The game of large size circular playing cards was first invented by the Malla Kings of Bishnupur (Bengal). Jaipur, Orissa and Cuddappa in the South were other places where the round, playing cards game was known. But today in India only Sawantwadi has maintained the craft of making ganjifas.

Sawantwadi ganifas are based on dashavatara - the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The incarnations are: Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Wamana, Parshurama, Rama, Krishna, Balarama and Kalaki.

The art of the Sawantwadi chitaries has vanished long ago. In the year 1888 there worked only two painters; their existence was ruined by the import of articles from Europe and China. The technique of lacquer paintings of Sawantwadi is very sound. The surface of the objects which were to be decorated with paintings are specially prepared by the chitaries.

First, the painters cover the object with a layer of stucco (chalk or zinc oxide mixed with gum) which they would smoothen out. In the case of articles made of bamboo strips they would first cover the surface with a cotton cloth, sticking it down carefully and then apply the stucco paste. This way the painters evened out the surface to create impenetrable foundations on which colours retained their richness and glow. A coat of lacquer gives the objects a finished look.

Sawantwadi is famous for the craft of lacquer ware, which was introduced here around the end of the 17th century. Various schools teaching this craft were started in Sawantwadi during the 18th and the 19th centuries. Many of the artisans were moved from nearby Goa. The Sawantwadi lacquer ware is now available in a wide range of products and concentrates on traditional hand painted and lacquered furniture and light fittings.