Raja Ravi Varma Playing Cards

Art History/Craft History

Raja Ravi Varma Playing Cards

Randall, Jon


Mr. Jon Randall, who happened to find Raja ravi Varma playing cards during one of his purchases of old playing cards at an auction house in the U.K. was generous enough to add some significant insights as well as scanned images of the cards to Mr. Gordhandas’ article on ‘Playing Cards by Raja Ravi Varma.’- Asia InCH

On purchasing a lot of ‘old playing cards’ at an auction house in the U.K. I was aware the lot included a mix of cards, some with Indian court cards, but having arrived late I was more concerned with checking out the French cards in the lot that had initially attracted me. The lot cost more than anticipated, but I was a happy man carrying a small box of cards to my car. Instead of tackling the 2 hour drive home immediately I eagerly looked through every card and sorted the packs out correctly. I’d not noticed the Ace of Spades to the Indian pack in my brief viewing of the lot prior to the auction … Ravi Varma Press, Bombay. Interesting I thought, a new name to me and one of only a handful of Indian packs I’d seen. Amongst the mix of cards in my box I sorted one complete pack with an elephant on the back of the cards, it includes the joker and is in excellent condition, 11 cards (3S – KS) of the same court and back design in more used condition, another pack missing the 8H and including several faults with different court cards and an Indian girl as the back design, and a single pip card (6H) with a 3rd different back design of what to me looks like an Indian deity sitting in a flower.

At home a couple of evenings later I thought I’d research my new Ravi Varma Press playing cards. Search pretty much anything and Google will spit out multiple related hits. Not so with Ravi Varma Press playing cards. One solitary hit …  an article written by Kishor Gordhandas on (there are now two hits, the other a US forum post in search of information on RVP playing cards).

With great interest I read the article, re-reading the final paragraphs a few times to fully digest them. As it sank in that RVP playing cards were incredibly scarce, I became excited to contact Mr Gordhandas and inform him that I had a complete RVP pack with different court cards to the Mythological and to the Historical packs illustrated on the website. Both the Mythological and the Historical packs have rounded corners, yet this ‘new’ pack of mine has square corners, leading me to believe this ‘new’ pack is actually older than the two known packs. The AS is also a different design, similar to the Historical pack, but with quite a few differences.

The court cards are not named, and my knowledge of historical India does not extend to identifying the significant characters that adorn this pack. I welcome any information or lead a keen reader may wish to pass my way regarding the possible names of those depicted on the court cards or regarding the general history of Ravi Varma Press playing cards

I believe the article was written in 2008, and I was saddened to learn that Mr Gordhandas had passed away the following year. I feel from reading the article that he would’ve been delighted to see these cards of mine.

It is my pleasure to add this short text together with comprehensive scans of the my RVP cards to the webpage started by Mr Gordhandas.






Your views


Access 70,000+ practitioners in 2100+ crafts across India.


10,000+ listings on arts, crafts, design, heritage, culture etc.


Rich and often unfamiliar vocabulary of crafts and textiles.

SHOP at India inCH

Needs to be written.