I recently purchased the beautiful Sacred Indian Tarot (not to be mistaken for the Sacred India Tarot) and wanted to pop-up a first impression to give some much needed press to this little-known deck. I stumbled on a couple of images of this deck in a Facebook tarot group (it had me at High Priestess), but there are very few images of it online and even after scouring the pages of Aeclectic’s epic archive of decks, I could find no mention of it, which is a shame because it is incredible!
The deck is Majors only and was first published in 2010, created by Kiren Rai, a writer from Uganda who moved to India in her early teens. In the introduction Rai says, “There is a strong similarity between the early tenets of tarot and the Hindu belief in Karma as a regenerative process of consciousness…The Sacred Indian Tarot is the first comprehensive Indian book of tarot cards based on Indian epics and mythology. The deck of cards contains 22 unique hand painted cards with archetypes based on a rich tapestry of of Indian images, stories and symbols taken from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads.”
Each card was painted or sketched by a different Indian artist, utilising their own regional styles. I’m not always keen on decks that use multiple artists because I can find the different energies of the creators jarring, making it hard to feel the deck as a cohesive whole. Luckily, this is not the case here; despite the different styles, the images still work together beautifully, and I love that a whole host of young Indian artists were able to showcase their work for such a broad audience.
The card backs are reversible and the deck comes in a very sturdy flip-top box with a decent sized guidebook, where each card is shown in full-colour reproduction, with a note about the image’s significance in Hindu or Buddhist tradition. The author has done an excellent job with the book, providing a traditional upright and reversed meaning, followed by a more in-depth look at the card’s image and a discussion of the saga, religious text or mythology it was drawn from.
One thing I absolutely love about this deck, aside from the imagery, is how it does not feel at all appropriative or exploitative of Hindu and Buddhist spirituality. This is not a New Age deck with an “exotic” [read: fetishized] Indian flavour. It is clear that the author has deep personal and academic knowledge of the region’s diverse spiritual traditions and has spent years weaving this knowledge together with the symbology and archetypes of tarot. It is a wonderfully universalist project that still maintains reverence for the uniqueness of its subject.
The book and cards also provide an excellent springboard into further research on Vedic history. As someone who is walking down a Norse pagan path, I am fascinated by the shared Proto-Indo European roots of Germanic and Hindu polytheism (and some could reasonably argue, pantheism). All you have to do is scratch a little beneath the surface of their rich allegories and metaphors to find similar spiritual concepts of the universe and divinity.
If you love the deck, but are unsure about taking the plunge because it is Majors only, I highly recommend looking into the ‘Open Reading’ style, pioneered by Alejandro Jodorowsky and continued by Yoav Ben Dov. Originally created for Tarot de Marseille, this style generally involves pulling three cards from the Major Arcana as the foundation of any reading. The guidebook also includes a couple of spreads including a chakra reading, which I hope to try out soon.