Rohit Arya_ Sacred India Tarot:creating the High Priestess

The posts on the creative process behind the Sacred India Tarot are picking up speed.. here we have the thinking behind the depiction of The High Priestess which in this case is Saraswati, goddess of wisdom. The intervening years have brought about many changes… society has become more intolerant, alas, and some aspects of the original artwork and writing are being withheld  by me. Life is  long and, but the world is full of idiots who wish to make it short, so I opt for the better part of valor. What I do not remember about the work is how much overlap and revision was going on all the time!

Rohit’s Notes: 

 “In so far as is possible without becoming vulgar their figures are to be full, not the waif like international model type.  Not too voluptuous however.  We can put a golden band across the breasts, as is done in south Indian murals.  We shall send you a sample.  This is actually historically accurate, and I also want to communicate the joyful and sensual people that Ancient India was, instead of God’s Frozen People as they are now.

Saraswathi should be clad in white and be of a white complexion herself.  The dominant colour in the entire card should be white.  Her expression should be as the goddess of learning and wisdom would look upon the foibles of mankind.  A red lotus as her couch would provide a dramatic contrast, but if the effect is too overwhelming, then her seat should be a white lotus.  There should be at least a couple of swans floating around her.  In her hands should be a Veda and definitely a veena.   If you wish to include yantras or schematic chakras in any diagrams, nobody would be as happy as I.”

and this is Jane’s sketch of goddess Annapurna/Parvati, from a photo of the bronze, which Rohit sent.

– within the discussion of  female types for Sacred India Tarot

Correspondence: Jane 3 October 2001:  “Here is Saraswathi – based upon your notes and on the River Saraswathi which flowed through the Rajasthan Desert in Vedic times – source of inspiration.  Trying to get the “veiled” aspect of the High Priestess, who yet directly conveys the wisdom through being very relaxed.  The swans are the cream of Bhakti floating on the lake of Jnana, and we shall see them also with Brahma in Card 4, as they represent him (the Emperor).  David Frawley’s translation and commentary on Saraswathi, Rig Veda VI.61, 1-14 is very descriptive.  Perhaps this drawing is too soft?  What do you think?   


“You mentioned in your notes a picture of Laxmi sitting on conch shells, and some writing about No 4, Brahma – I do not have these, please send them and any other relevant articles for cards 3-7 –  I have the one for Card 6.   Hope to have scanner repaired and replaced by this weekend – OR BY POST!!   No Yantras coming through as yet, these will probably appear with Brahma, No 4.

 “… just spoke with you re Vishnu – his solar aspect is emphasized in his armour.”

Correspondence:  Gautam, 15 October 2001:

“Nice speaking with you yesterday.  The revised Vishnu has been received, and is looking good, thank you.  We are still awaiting the Saraswathi as it didn’t arrive.   Rohit will be getting a reference for Lakshmi which he found, in case it is of any help.

 “With reference to the Rudra, he is ok if we do not have the drum, but just the trident being longer if possible.  We now leave this to you.   Warm regards …”

 “… Saraswathi received well.  Will discuss with Rohit, and revert.”

Jane’s Notes: 

 In Vedic times, the river Saraswathi flowed through what is now the Rajasthan desert, on a north-south course from the Himalayas a little to the east of the Indus.   She dried p … (perhaps, as the ancient knowledge dried up into theoretical or priest-craft!) … and became deified as the mythic fount or Source of wisdom.  This reflects also on history’s suppression of the feminine gift.

Recently, by re-directing waters, the Saraswathi River has been helped to flow again in her old bed!

The card shows an alchemical transformation of Solar Light diffused through sand ripples to become the flowing waters of the subconscious – a stream.   This represents the “veil” of the High Priestess.   I am trying to get this veiled impression of the High Priestess, who yet conveys wisdom through being very relaxed.

Swans are the cream of bhakti which floats on the lake of jnana, and also the vehicle of Brahma, her “husband”.   David Frawley’s translation and poetic commentary on Saraswathi, Rig Veda VI.61, 1-14, is very descriptive.

Correspondence: Rohit and Gautam 18 October 2001:   

“1.          We are sending to you by post, an article on Laxmi, and some pictures.

“2.          We are also sending an article on Brahma, with pictures.

“3.          With reference to card no.6, Lovers, though we mentioned there is no reference, we are sending a picture of the god of love, Kamadeva with Rati (his consort) to serve as a visual take-off.  He should not be wearing a dhoti, though.

“4.          Rohit is also sending the description for the next set of 7 cards.

 “ The saraswathi is beautiful.  We just LOVE it.  Is there any particular significance to the horse-head on the veena?  and also to the bent lotus on the right?”

Jane“Horse is mare’s head, mentioned in the rig veda verses. The bent lotus is humility and reverence for things in bud – was seen in a picture.   Stand by for Rudra Mark II – will attempt to send.”

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

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