Himalayan Art Resources

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

སྒྲོལ་མ། སྣང་བརྙན་ཡོངས། 度母(本尊)(全像)
(item no. 336)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug
Size 48.26x29.21cm (19x11.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.23.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Female

TBRC: bdr:W25346

Interpretation / Description

Orange Tara, Purifying All Poverty (Tibetan: drol ma mar ser): Ensapa, Mahachakra Vajrapani, and Yama Dharmaraja. Number 11 from the set of Twenty-one Taras of the lineage of Lord Atisha.

Yellow in colour with one face and two hands, the right hand is in the mudra (gesture) of supreme generosity holding a yellow vase extended across the knee. The left hand is held to the heart with the thumb and forefinger holding the stem of a red and blue utpala flower blossoming at the left ear. Peaceful, smiling and youthful she is adorned with flowing silks of various colours and gold and jewel ornaments, gold tiara and the like; seated with the right leg slightly extended in a relaxed manner and the left drawn up. On a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat encircled by a blue-red nimbus and an orange aureola she sits surrounded by a lush green landscape. A white conch shell in a blue bowl is placed in front as an auspicious offering.

At the top left is the wrathful tutelary deity, Mahachakra Vajrapani, blue, with three faces and six hands embracing the consort. At the right is a lama wearing monastic robes and a yellow pandita hat, with a red meditation belt, seated on a cushion and deer skin. At the bottom right is the wrathful protector Yama Dharmaraja, dark blue, with the head of a buffalo, holding a bone stick and lasso, riding on the back of a buffalo; surrounded by flames. At the left corner are three monks and a lay-woman seated on a mat.

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 Tara emanations - 1 for each verse. Each form of Tara has a specific colour and accomplishes a specific 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. The 3 lineages do not share the same iconographic forms. In the Atisha system all the Taras appear in the same basic posture and only differ with the colour of the body. Aside from these 3 lineages there are other less well known sets of 21 Taras.

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: ?left five.? See others from the same set 294, 337, 338, 339, 340, 450, 451, 331.

Jeff Watt 9-98

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Left five

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: gyon lnga pa.

Reverse of Painting
Special Features: (includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Tara (Atisha Tradition)
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Buddhist Deity: Tara Main Page
Painting Set: Tara, Twenty-one (Panchen Lama)