Dashavatar (10 incarnations) cards are a part of the rich heritage of Bishnupur in Bankura district of West Bengal. The 10 avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu- Matsya, Kurma, Baraha, Nrisingha, Baaman, Ram, Balaram, Parshuram, Buddha and Kalki are drawn on these cards. The ‘Dashavatar card game’ is a complicated one, played using 120 cards and with numerous rules and regulations.
The artists from the Faujdar family of Bishnupur specialise in making these cards. First, a piece of cloth is folded a number of times and pasted using glue made from tamarind seeds. After drying, a layer of chalk dust is applied. Both the sides are evened out with a smooth stone. The cards are then cut into round shapes of 4-and- a-half inch radius. Various deities and their symbols are painted on these using various colours. On the reverse, a layer of lac and vermillion is applied. These beautiful Dashavatar cards are a unique example of Bengal’s folk art.