How tarot card readings are becoming popular among young Nepalese

Dipasa Bista jumped on a video call on Instagram. On the other side was a tarot reader. Bista saw the reader burn joss sticks and candles before shuffling a deck of cards – featuring blue and gold artwork – twice the size of normal playing cards. As Bista asked questions, the reader chose cards “to read.”

“She did a bit of cleaning at first, and from that very moment I felt like a sense of calm came over me,” Bista, 24, said. “Of course I was nervous, but I also felt reassured.”

In a country deeply fascinated with fortune-telling through natal chart readings, the pandemic has imported an ancient Western methodology of predicting the future through a deck of cards – tarot cards. Since the first lockdown, tarot card reading has caught the attention of many young Nepalese. Young tarot card readers have started using various social media platforms to provide paid services. Amid the confusion and uncertainty brought by the pandemic, tarot cards have become a way for young people to seek clarity on ‘their future’.

“A lot of curiosity and naivety led me to book my tarot reading, quite impulsively,” said Bista, a grants management and fundraising professional who booked her first reading after heard about by his sister.

During the second confinement, Niharika Singh, an animator by profession, found herself by chance on the Instagram page of a tarot card reader. Curious, Singh booked her first tarot reading appointment.

“I was very fascinated by the idea of ​​doing a reading. We jumped on an Instagram call,” Singh laughed.

Tarot card readers have taken to social media platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok, Clubhouse, to advertise their services. Readers’ Instagram pages had sections dedicated to their clients’ testimonials, tarotology information, and links to book readings with information about their fillers.

Smriti Shrestha, 23, who runs the Instagram handle @konegin_, began her tarot reading journey in March 2020. She started uploading her tarot card videos to TikTok and did sessions on Clubhouse. “Clubhouse has become a great platform for me to find my clients. After my first session on Clubhouse, I had over a hundred reading requests on my Instagram.

While Shrestha uses her personal handle to do readings, readers also have dedicated pages.

@Thetarotells is an Instagram page with over 1,100 followers, run by Oshin Thapa Magar who studies food technology at NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology) College. Magar also started reading tarot virtually during the first lockdown. His clients were mostly friends at first. His services have now spread through word of mouth.

“And as my clientele grew, I had to open my Instagram page. Since then it has been an exciting journey,” says Magar.

tarot cards are a deck of 78 cards used for divination purposes. Tarot cards were first designed as playing cards, which later were used for divinatory purposes. Readers read the game using their intuitive skills to decipher meanings and messages.

Young people are drawn to tarot readings, not just for divination. They find it entertaining, a fun activity. “It’s now become a ‘thing’ among the youngsters, and it’s actually quite fun,” says Singh who has done two tarot readings. “I felt unproductive anyway, so reading gave me a sense of clarity, and it was very relaxing.”

“The tarot card is a guidance tool,” says Sneha Agarwal, a certified tarot reader who manages @thereader556 on Instagram. “It helps you navigate life circumstances better,” said Agarwal, who is currently based in Dharan.

Magar, 23, has been reading tarot cards for almost two years now. “The tarot is a means of communication. It’s a way to receive messages from our spirit guides and ancestors, and pass them on to clients,” she said.

All of the tarot readers the Post spoke to were fascinated with astrology and spirituality before becoming tarot card readers. The pandemic has given them the opportunity to spend time improving their skills, either through online courses or by reading for their friends.

“I’ve always been into astrology, mostly Western, then I started watching a lot of tarot reading videos online in late 2019. Eventually I learned how to read the cards during the first few month of the pandemic,” said Shrestha who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in social work at St Cloud State University, USA.

Agarwal even took two online courses on Udemy to become certified in advanced tarot and face reading.

Social media platforms and the internet have played a crucial role in popularizing tarot reading in Nepal. The ease of reader access through these platforms and their algorithms have benefited both readers and customers.

Singh’s friends wanted to get a cheena reading for years now, but they haven’t been able to do it. “For a cheena reading, we usually go with our parents and we can’t even ask the questions we want. But with tarot readers, they’re very easily accessible, and now a lot of my friends are opting for that.

Birth cards, colloquially called cheena, are very popular in Nepalese culture. Agarwal believes that the widespread culture and belief in fortune telling has allowed tarot reading to flourish in Nepal.

Agarwal has already read for around 800 people, Shrestha has read for over 200 people and Magar has read for around 1,000 people, so far, they say.

The audience of tarot card readers is not limited to Nepal only. Agarwal’s clientele is mainly in Nepal, but also in India. Shrestha’s clientele is found in Nepal and the Nepalese diaspora in the United States. Likewise, Magar’s customers are found in Nepal, USA, UK and Dubai. They have read for mostly young audiences – ages eighteen to mid-thirties – around the world.

Shrestha hypothesizes that this popularity of tarot readers among young people is mainly due to pandemic-induced curiosity, uncertainty and confusion.

Magar thinks the pandemic has come as a shock to everyone.

“We’re all confused and scared about the uncertain future. Maybe that’s why most of my clients were curious…about their careers or their relationships,” she said.

However, not all readers surveyed by the Post were able to read the cards initially. They initially struggled to interpret the meaning of the cards, but over time their confidence grew as their predictions began to come true.

“I made a prediction for my friend and when that prediction came true, and other predictions started to come true, I realized there couldn’t be so many coincidences,” said Agarwal. “And that’s when I started to have more confidence in my intuitive abilities.”

Shrestha shared a similar story.

“I was puzzled and amazed when my predictions came true. It made me realize that maybe I was underestimating my abilities,” she said.

Despite this, readers stress that they cannot guarantee that their predictions will come true. “They warn you to take it with a grain of salt,” Singh said.

All readers have varying amounts that they charge their customers for their services. Agarwal fees range from 320 to 1600 rupees, Magar fees range from 500 to 700 rupees and Shrestha fees range from 1000 to 9000 rupees. Fees are determined based on the number of questions, areas of interest, and reading time.

As professional tarot readers, the three readers shared with the Post that they’ve made a lot of money from tarot readings.

“I have always made sure with my clients that they find the article worth reading,” said Shrestha, who left Nepal a few months ago. “Before coming to the United States, I was able to do most of my shopping with savings from tarot reading.”

Tarot card reading has also enabled these readers to become financially independent. By tapping into an uncharted arena of divination, both personally and professionally, readers feel grateful for their financial independence, while pursuing their niche interests. They are optimistic about the growing popularity of tarot reading in Nepal.

Bista said she really enjoyed her tarot reading because “it revolved around the idea that everything is in our control and we can change our future, it’s just about taking the right path.”

“I will definitely do another reading soon,” says Bista.