Mandila – The card game of the Dhaka Nawab Family

February 21, 2012

by Anas Khwaja 

This article is based on interview with K.M.Aziz, K.M.Halim, K. Showkat Kamal, K.Shaker Hassan, K Rehan Hassan and Iftekhar Hassan.

Back in days when there was no television, cellular phone or Internet, Dhaka Nawab Family members passed time playing cards. “Mandila” is one of the card games which were played exclusively among Dhaka Nawab family members. The game originated in Turkey and is similar to Bridge in rules. It is strategy based game; where understanding with partner is the key to winning.


                                                                                                     Card box in Ahsan Manzil, now part of the museum  exhibit

                                                                                                      Card Room inside Ahsan Manzil by Fritz Kapp 1904

Players: It is played by four players who form two partnerships; the partners sit opposite each other at a table.

Deck: Ten is excluded in Mandila. This deck contains 48 unique cards in the four French suits (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs) and twelve ranks running from two (deuce) to nine, Queen, Jack, King, and Ace.

The Deal: After the shuffle, the dealer offers the deck to another player to the dealer’s right to cut the deck. …..Dealing is done clockwise..

Point/Rank: The highest value cards are nine. The role of the nine is crucial. Points for other major cards are Ace 4 points. King 3 points Jack 2 points and Queen and remaining card are of 1 point each.

The Game:  This is a game of 36 deals. The object of a game is based on the play of multiple rounds, or tricks, in each of which each player plays a single card from their hand, and based on the values of played cards one player with partner wins or “takes” the trick.

Special Calls:  “Safa” is called when opponent wins none of the cards and “Bilai” is called when opponent total scored points is under ten.

The Gold Ring Tournament: Mandila was not only played in private sessions but tournaments were held in regular interval. The last The Gold Ring Tournament (named after the winning prize) was held in Chaman (Andar Mahal) in 1985. K.M. Makassar was a frequent organizer of Mandila Tournaments.

Card players from Nawabbari who had expertise in Mandila-

Players from the thirties K.M.Ismail, K Fayezuddin, K. Kamaluddin, K Abdur Rahim (father of K.M.Salim), K Qayyum.

Players from the forties  K.M.Arzoo, K.M.Alim, K. Nur Mohammed, K Mostafa Kamal, Barkat Mia, K.M. Mosharraf, K Khairuddin, Moulvi Mia, K. Ataullah and K.Nyamatulla (Nammu Mia).

Players from the fifties  K.M.Modassar, K.M. Monawar, Aziz Shah, K.M.Halim, K.Asad Quader, K Sirajul Islam, K Najrul Islam (Chatgaiya Mia),Khwaja Sultan Bakht, K Hakim (Kalu Mia), Syed Hatif, K.M.Keshwar, K.M.Farid, K Osman Quader (Chotu Mia), Samilullah, K. Tanim, Fazal Huq and Abdur Rahim.

Players from the sixties  K.M.Latif, K Mehboob, K.M. Shaker, K.M. Rehan, K Sadaruddin, K.Ahmed Kamal, K. Asmat Kamal (Pikil), K.M. Sohel, K Tareq Ali, K. Shafi Ali, K Sadaruddin (Budda Bhai), Bagga Bhai/ Feku Bhai, K Fakir , K.Aziullah, Mallu Bhai, K.M.Aziz , K.M.Zarrar, K.M. Saifullah and K. Pervez.

Female players: Maliha Begum, Dilara Begum, Zebunnesa Begum, Salma Begum and Qamar Bano Begum were notable among women players.

This game is in near extinction. Why not invite your family and friends this evening for a Mandila session and revive a part of the Dhaka Nawab family history? If you are interested playing Mandila and know game rules in details contact K.Shaker Hassan (USA) (516 312 3861) , K.M.Halim (Bangladesh (9010611) or Shafi Ali (UK) (161 2703623).

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