Sacred India Tarot Archive – Creation of Ace of Arrows/Swords

Guardian angel or deva, 1991

Guardian angel or deva, 1991


Almost a month since my “Preamble to the Suit of Arrows“!  … where Rohit’s Introduction to the suit, and why he used the Bheeshma episode in the Mahabaratha may be read.

Additionally, to sum up:  in my view, the Arrows or Swords represent the play of Light in creation over and above and permeating … the Karmas in the world which carry out the action over many generations.   This applies to a series of lifetimes, or to the birth-pangs of a society.

The engraving below, shows the stuff going on in our physical and psychological universe, and the astonished wonder of the pilgrim when he breaks through the starry veil to the Laws behind our patterns and beliefs.

There is the divine engineering:  it falls to the slow interfacing with human evolution to rectify apparent discords among the divine prototypes.  We work in tandem, but often without clear vision.  The levels do not always blend;  the friction manifests at the level between the outer battlefield and interior progress.

old Kabbalah engraving


Rohit’s Notes (2004) – “Ace – Bheeshma blocking the Ganga”  “This is the discovery of his son by King Shantanu.  Bheeshma, still known by his first name of Devavratha, is playfully holding back the Ganges, by building a dam of arrows across the flowing river. He should be depicted about to release a single arrow into the river already dammed up by his shafts. 

“If there was any way to depict the river as the fluid body of a woman, or as a stream which coagulates at a far corner into the serene face of Ganga, taking pride in the prowess of her son, it would be wonderful. 

Kailas and foothills

“We need lots of blues and white in the card, and indeed in all the cards of the suit.  Shantanu can be seen on the opposite bank, amazed at the wonderful young man.  Bheeshma should always be clad in pure blinding white, to represent his complete life long chastity and sinless nature, as well as the somewhat naive and innocent side to his nature that never left him.  

“Also he was first a warrior and then a spiritual giant, so at all times of life he should be represented as exceedingly muscular.  The English Longbow had an average pull of 180 pounds.  Bheeshma’s bow could not be strung by anyone else – no exceptions.  That takes tremendous upper body strength.”

Visual reference - the young Bheeshma holds back the Ganga with a mesh of arrows.  From an excellent book of strip-cartoons on Indian mythology which Rohit sent to me for imagery and ideas

Visual reference – the young Bheeshma holds back the Ganga with a mesh of arrows. From a book of strip-cartoons on Indian mythology which Rohit sent to me for imagery and ideas.

“What is found here – is every where. 
What is not here – is found no where.”

Ved Vyasa, around 1700 BCE

In Rohit’s book with the Sacred India Tarot deck, he states challengingly:

“The Mahabharata begins with misbehaviour in heaven and ends with catastrophe on earth … … It is one of those beloved boxes within boxes tales, each story links to another and yet another, until you realise that to know this tale is to understand comprehensively the Indian Weltenschauung.  Every Indian, including those who are not Hindus, seems to know the major section of the narrative by a process of cultural osmosis.  The characters and incidents have been internalised to an extent that is simply incredible …  

The story of Bheeshma, narrated in the Suit of Arrows, provides the unifying thread in this bewilderingly glorious tapestry.  Bharat his ancestor, was the first emperor of mythic India, and the epic named after him deals with the transformation of the spirit of the age – the Yuga – from the Dwapana Yuga to the present Kali Yuga.  It is a process that sees righteousness and virtue decline to a quarter of the world’s consciousness from an even scale in the preceding Yuga.  The old world dies and with it, its values;  what will the new world bring that justifies such ruin? 

Kabbalah 1989 blade

“Thus the Mahabharatha is the centre of a rapidly transforming world, where old certainties don’t work, and which, abandoning all values, thrums out a seductive promise of apparent success.  The intelligent characters in the epic are agonised at the world they are both dissolving and creating – much concerned with morals and ethics, with ways of being, with value systems, with good governance, with the position of women in society, with the seductions of worldly glory and the irresistible call of the Spirit to renounce the world for the greater glory of God and, above all, with the very definition of what constitutes virtue itself.  These are eternal human verities and account for the perennial grip the epic has on the Indian mind.”

In other words:  a preoccupation with the laws of conduct, in harmony with the cosmos.  Through the epic, Lord Krishna takes up arms as divine warrior for the Dharma here on Earth.

He “articulates one of the most potent spiritual concepts ever known, the doctrine of Nishkama Karma – desireless action as a practice of Yoga.  It has only assumed greater significance and validity as human life continues, ever more complex and overwhelming.  There is no need to retreat from the world, one can creatively engage with it and force the vicissitudes of life to provide the catalytic ingredients for a vibrant spiritual awareness.”

Looking at our own lives, we may see what challenged us, and made us grow.   The message throughout the suit of Arrows/Swords is not comfortable, but creative.

Sacred India Tarot - Ace of Arrows

Sacred India Tarot – Ace of Arrows


What is Bheeshma doing here – powerfully endowed in his upper body, as is told ?  What cosmic movement is slowed down and impeded, to enable the enactment on Earth?  There has to be a “working together”, it seems.  Mother Ganga has seen it all:  she gazes right through the event and all its titans, into eternity.  Water becomes always its own.  The fallen arrows form a lattice, a mesh, a weave, conforming the great waters in a gorge, to the slings and arrows of human fortune.

I have a recurring image of a river which is held back for a while, by a dam of twigs, leaves and debris … even a civilization.  In due course, She loosens the epic impediment, piece by piece, and the waters are released, carrying it with them, with a tremendous force.




When I painted this card I was – not surprisingly – aware with the eternal feminine, and of the male effort throughout his-story to shape and confine her-story to his belief.   She is the Daughter of the Mountain, and older by far, than any tale.   The River is the movement of the Mountain from the Sky.

The young Bheeshma by blocking his Mother Ganga, is harnessing his feminine nature … for a position in history. Rohit asked me to depict him and other characters in a Balinese way, to indicate the universality of the epic.  (But in the later cards, I reverted to the Indian warrior type.) The Mahabharat in the osmosis of every Indian child, appeals to each recognition of ourselves in the human race.  The name “Bharat” is “India” which we all carry in our bloodstream.  An English friend of mine watches the movie of it whenever she is feeling stressed out, because it gives her a strange peace.  As in the greatest fairy tales, she observes the denizens of the Dark and of the Light in their proper confrontation.

The young Bheeshma by blocking the Ganga, looks down upon an epic war:  the interwoven strategies of the Arrows.  He now aims his bow into one spot, which will pinion all the rest in position.  Such is destiny.

I just noticed a rainbow in his bow … the gate of primordial fire, water, air.  His feet are planted in the rock, which is earth.  She is his Mother.

As Rohit writes – “The casual and skilful expression of supernatural ability announces a heroic destiny, but his Divine mother’s sombre countenance, exulting in his prowess, yet serious, shows more than mere maternal apprehension.  The gods know best this truth.  Deep is the flow of Karma; and Destiny may bring change of a startling nature…

“The Ace of Arrows always has this sense of cool, irresistible power, but those who wield it very often find its might is uncontrollable.  It has a habit of rocketing to the precise point in your Karmic life-path that you do not wish to engage with, that being contrary to self-image or desire.  The Ace of Arrows is very high in spiritual energy, and in spiritual rewards given, but its methods cause trauma even to the most accomplished …  

“What intellectual input can you bring to bear on this situation?  What do you need to give up, let go?”

SITA ace arrows Mother Ganga





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Rohit Arya

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. 

Earlier posts about the deck, including the first 15 Major Arcana archives are in   The deck is copyrighted (c) 2011 to the publishers, Yogi Impressions Books pvt, and available also on Amazon and internationally.


Jane Adams

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

Aquariel link

All original art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address

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