Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Tara (Buddhist Deity) - (Atisha, 21 Taras)

སྒྲོལ་མ། སྣང་བརྙན་ཡོངས། 度母(本尊)(全像)
(item no. 331)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug
Size 43.18x29.21cm (17x11.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.17.14
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Female

TBRC: W25346

Interpretation / Description

Tara, Shaking the Three Worlds (Tibetan: drol ma): Ghantapa, Heruka Chakrasamvara, and Chaturbhuja Mahakala. Number 17 from the set of Twenty-one Taras of the Lineage of Lord Atisha; pacifying daemons and obstacles.

Peaceful with one face and two hands, red in colour, the right hand is in the mudra (gesture) of supreme generosity holding a red vase extended across the knee. The left hand is held to the heart with the thumb and ring-finger holding the stem of a blue and red utpala flower blossoming at the left ear. Youthful, she wears a long green scarf and yellow sash as an upper garment and a skirt of various colours, adorned with gold and jewel ornaments, a tiara of flowers and the like, seated with the right leg slightly extended in a relaxed manner, the left drawn up. On a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat encircled by a blue-orange nimbus and bright orange aureola she sits surrounded by lush green landscape. Arranged in front is an offering in a gold bowl.

At the top left is the tutelary deity Sahaja Heruka Chakrasamvara, blue in colour with one face and two hands embracing the consort red Vajrayogini; surrounded by flames (complex form). At the right is the mahasiddha Ghantapa, brown in colour, holding a gold vajra and bell, embraced by the consort; flying in the sky.

At the bottom right is the wrathful protector Chaturbhuja Mahakala, dark blue, with one face and four hands, seated on a corpse; surrounded by flames. To the left is a white elephant in the middle of a green forest.

Tara is a completely enlightened buddha who had previously promised to appear, after enlightenment, in the form of a female bodhisattva and goddess for the benefit of all beings. Her primary activity is to protect from the eight fears. Practiced in all Schools of Tibetan Buddhism her various forms are found in all classes of tantra - Nyingma and Sarma.

From the tantra known as the 'Twenty-One Praises of Tara' spoken by the buddha Samantabhadra arises a system of practice with 21 emanations - 1 for each verse of praise. Each form of Tara has a specific colour and accomplishes a special activity. Based on that, there are 3 well known and distinct lineages for the set of 21 Taras; Pandita Suryagupta, Lord Atisha and the lineage from the Nyingma Lama - Longchenpa. Aside from these 3 there are other less known sets of 21 Taras as well as numerous individual forms and lineages. The 3 main lineages do not share the same iconographic forms. In the Atisha system all the Taras appear in the same basic posture with equal faces and hands and only differ in the colour of the body and vase held in the right hand of each. Some have a slightly fierce facial expression. Green is the primary colour of Tara, however green is not included in the enumeration of the 21. There are 4 red Taras, 6 white, 3 yellow, 4 orange, 2 red-black and 2 black Taras for a total of 21.

This painting belongs to a set of 21 depicting all the forms of Tara according to the Atisha Lineage. A short inscription is written in the areola above Tara's head. See others from the same set 336, 337, 338, 339, 340, 450, 451.

Jeff Watt 10-98

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Left eight.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: gyon brgyad pa.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Tara (Atisha Tradition)
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery II
Buddhist Deity: Tara Main Page (Paintings)
Buddhist Deity: Tara, Red (Atisha Tradition)
Painting Set: Tara, Twenty-one (Panchen Lama)
Buddhist Deity: Tara, Red (All Forms)