The first mention of this card game called Ganjifa is in the Chronicles of Babur in the 16th century. Other authors such as Ahli Shirazi in Rub'ayat-i Ganjifa (circa 1514-15) and Abu al-Fazl in 'Ayn-i Akbari also mention the game in details. The Mughal Ganjifa contains eight suits, each of 12 cards for a complete pack of 96 cards. The cards were very often illustrated, in a style that would follow the local school of painting. However it seems that a certain conservatism in the styles of Ganjifa painting has made them difficult to date precisely. Although often made of papier-mache and cardboard, the best examples were made of ivory and tortoiseshell, such as the present pieces.
In the 'Ayn-i Akbari, Abu al-Fazl described how Abkar's set of cards, through the eight suits, would depict the activity of each of his administrative departments. For a discussion on Mughal Ganjifa, see Rudolf Van Leyden, The Arts of Playing Cards, in Facets of Indian Art, London, 1982, pp.256-259. A related tortoiseshell card sold at Christie’s South Kensington, 11 April 2014, lot 11.