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Raja Ravi Varma's Playing Cards.

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Much has been written about the late Raja Ravi Varma (1848 - 1906), the great painter from Trivandrum and his immortal paintings. Special exhibitions of Ravi Varma's paintings have been held at Trivandrum and at New Delhi, and slide illustrated talks have been given in Mumbai and other cities. The articles and talks go into great detail about his paintings, calendar art and the printing press he started in Bombay in 1894. The articles discuss in detail the reproductions of Indian puranic and religous themes. They fail to even mention the beautiful and colourful playing cards that were printed at the press after it was moved to Lonavla.

The exact number of different decks produced by the Raja Ravi Varma Press is not known, but two of them are described here.


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The first is a Historical pack with Moghul rulers, their Begums and armed guards.

Suit King Queen
  Diamonds Tamerlane (1336 - 1405) Noor-Jehan Begum
  Spades Akhbar Shah (1542 - 1605) Motee Begum
  Hearts Shah Jehan (1582 - 1666) Taj Mahal Begum
  Clubs Aurangzebe (1618 - 1707) Zenat Mahal Begum

This deck, like the others was published by the Raja Ravi Varma Press after his death in 1906. The captions on the court cards are in English, and the printing was likely done by nine or ten colour chromolithography.

The Ace of Spades displays the trade mark "RRV" and the words "TRADE MARK RAVI VARMA PRESS KARLI BOMBAY".


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King, Queen and Jack of Diamonds


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King, Queen and Jack of Spades


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King, Queen and Jack of Hearts


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King, Queen and Jack of Clubs


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The second pack has Indian mythological figures for the court cards.

Suit King Queen Jack
  Diamonds Nala Raja Damayanti Rani Raj Hans
  Spades Shri Ramachandra Shri Sitadevi Shri Hanuman
  Hearts Harishchandra Raja Taramati Rani Sage Vishwamitra
  Clubs Dushyant Raja Shakuntala Rani Sutradhar

The court card captions on this deck are written in Hindi. The Ace of Spades shows the trade mark "RRV" and the words "TRADE MARK RAVI VARMA PRESS KARLA-LONAVLA".


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Nala Raja, Damayanti Rani and Raj Hans


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Shri Ramachandra, Shri Sitadevi and Shri Hanuman


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Harishchandra Raja, Taramati Rani and Sage Vishwamitra


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Dushyant Raja, Shakuntala Rani and Sutradhar