Himalayan Art Resources

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

སྒྲོལ་མ། སྣང་བརྙན་ཡོངས། 度母(本尊)(全像)
(item no. 339)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug
Size 41.91x29.21cm (16.50x11.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.23.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Female

TBRC: W25346

Interpretation / Description

White Tara, Purifying Poison (Tibetan: drol ma kar mo): Padmasambhava, Heruka Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja, 'Inner' Yama Dharmaraja, and Dorje Setrab. Number 18 from the set of Twenty-one Taras of the lineage of Lord Atisha; pacifying the poison of a host of nagas.

Pale yellow in colour with one face and two hands, the right hand is in the mudra (gesture) of supreme generosity holding a pale 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 green and orange 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-orange nimbus and an red aureola she sits surrounded by a lush green landscape. In front, rising from a lotus pond on a red blossom, a small orange goddess offers golden nectar in a white skullcup.

At the top left is the primordial buddha Vajradhara, blue, with one face and two hands holding a vajra and bell embracing the consort. At the right is an Indian pandit, holding a vajra in the right hand and a skullcup in the left with a tantric khatvanga staff supported against the left shoulder; wearing a red hat and monastic robes.

At the bottom right is the worldly protector Setrap Chen, red, with one face and two hands wearing the attire of a warrior, holding a stick and lasso; riding a brown horse. At the left is Inner Yama Dharmaraja, blue-black, wrathful with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup; standing in a mass of flame.

Tara is a completely enlightened buddha who in a previous life 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 of Tara - 1 for each verse of the praise. Each form of Tara has a specific colour and accomplishes a specific activity. Based on that, there are 3 well known and distinct lineages; 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 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: ?right nine.? See others from the same set 294, 336, 337, 338, 340, 450, 451, 331.

Jeff Watt 9-98

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Right nine.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: gyas dgu 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)