Himalayan Art Resources

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

སྒྲོལ་མ། སྣང་བརྙན་ཡོངས། 度母(本尊)(全像)
(item no. 32928)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1900 - 1959
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Female

TBRC: bdr:W25346

Interpretation / Description

Green Tara (Tibetan: drol ma, English: Saviouress) together in the group known as the Twenty-one Taras according to the tradition of Jowo Atisha. The composition is a single painting and not part of a painting set and likely originates from Lhasa, Central Tibet, based on stylistic elements and a lack of characteristics common to Amdo, Kham and Eastern Tibet in general.

At the top center is what appears to be the 13th Dalai Lama, wearing monastic attire and a yellow pandita hat. At the bottom left corner is an idealized donor figure holding upraised a mandala plate offering.

The Twenty-one Taras according to the tradition of Atisha is one of five Twenty-one Tara Systems current in Tibetan Buddhism. The oldest system is likely that of Suryagupta. The Atisha system depicts all of the Taras with the same single face and two arms, in a sitting posture. The variations in the Atisha system are in colour only with minor differences in facial expression. Each of the individual Taras holds a vase in the outstretched right hand. The vase is the same colour as the body colour of that particular Tara. Some of the Taras are described as being slightly fierce meaning they may have an open mouth with slightly enlarged canine teeth and furrowed brow above the eyes.

The Atisha system of Taras is the more common found in Tibetan painting. It is interesting to note that there is no Green Tara or a White Tara of Long-life (Chintachakra). These two forms of Tara originate with separate lineages of transmission and different Indian and Tibetan teachers. Also, the Tara known for removing the eight great fears is not associated with any of the five or more systems of Twenty-one Taras. Tara and the Eight Great Fears is a separate and distinct system. (See the list of colours & functions for the Atisha Twenty-one Taras).

Jeff Watt [added 4-2022]

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Tara (Atisha Tradition)
Buddhist Deity: Tara, Twenty-one Taras Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Tara (Atisha Tradition, Masterworks)
Collection of the National Museum of Asian Art (Shrine)
Collection of the National Museum of Asian Art (Painting & Textile Masterworks)