Glad to see this post.
Considering that I've been researching on Ganjifa and running a Kickstarter campaign at the moment, I'd like to add a few things here:
A key dated reference regarding Ganjifa comes from an early biography of Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty. “Gunj” is a Persian word meaning treasure, and the last two syllables may be derived from the Chinese “chi-p’ai”, meaning playing cards — but these suggestions are unproven. In Orissa, where it is called Ganjappa, they say the word came from "gaja pa" that means elephant's foot, because the round cards when they are being played look like an elephant's foot.
However, few Indian researchers and Art patrons have come up with a theory that card games did originate in India long time back, may be, 700- 800 AD, and these used to be called as Kridapatram which literally means "Printed rags for playing". Local oral tradition do point it out as well e.g. Orissa in India where the craft is still trying to survive somehow. That said, there hasn't been any dated reference found till date to back it. Andy Pollette, also , did mention about Kridapatram on his website
that has lots of information on various aspects of Playing cards, in general.
Chronology of the evolution of early cards- Reference: Andy Pollette
During the later 16th and early 17th centuries, the cards spread to various parts of India and evolved into new forms. One such form was the Dashavatara Ganjifa, which depicts ten incarnations or avatars of Lord Vishnu. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu when revealing himself in opposition to evil chose these human and animal appearances. From the 17th century onwards, Dashavatara Ganjifa became the most popular card game in Rajasthan, Bengal, Nepal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Edward Terry, author of "A Voyage to East-India
", also mentions as seeing Ganifa cards often during his visit to India in the first quarter of 17th Century.
Dashavatara Ganjifa, circa 1940
Latest prototype (v3) of Guru Ganjifa- Inspired by Dashavatara Ganjifa and Madhubani art
In Sanskrit, "Gu" means "darkness of ignorance" and "Ru" means "one who removes". Another meaning for Guru is "One who reveals the Guri (target) to the disciple". The Guru Ganjifa deck consists of 130 cards, of which 120 are used in play. The other ten contain information about the avatars of Lord Vishnu. Each of the ten suits contains cards numbered 1 through 10 plus two face cards, a total of twelve cards per suit. The face cards are the Mantri (similar to the Jack) and the Raja (similar to the King).
The Raja and Mantri are always the highest cards, but in one group of suits the pip cards rank from the 10 (below the Mantri) down to the 1 (lowest), while in the other group they rank in the reverse direction from the 1 (below the Mantri) down to the 10 (lowest). The rule by which numbered cards rank upside down in half the suits is also found in some early European games, indicating that it goes back to the common ancestor of Western and Eastern cards.