Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Tara (Sculpture, non-standard iconography)

Tara Iconography

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Relaxed Posture
- Standing (Sculpture)
- Teaching Gesture
- Confusions
- Others...

The sculptural examples in this gallery are believed by the museums and private collections in which they reside, based on iconography, to be the female Buddha Tara (bodhisattva appearance). The two most common forms of Tara are the Green and the White followed by the Eight Fears and Twenty-one Taras. Those forms are the general models used for identifying female sculptural figures as Tara.

What is unusual about the forms in this gallery are their non-standard hand gestures or leg postures which do not conform to the well known iconography of the Green or White Tara. The examples are also not likely to be part of a larger set such as the Eight or Twenty-one. Is it even possible to positively identify each example as a form of Tara?

Four of the sculpture have the hands at the heart performing the teaching gesture: HAR #57194, 77537, 85776 and 88654.

Another five have the arms and hands in either the opposite pose from the standard Green and White Taras, or one arm significantly different from the norm: HAR #57649, 68320, 81573, 85797 and 85937.

The most unusual and difficult piece to identify is HAR #85795. Who is this full bodied figure with the legs in vajra posture, holding a fruit in the extended right hand and performing a gesture of blessing with the left, with no padma or utpala flower?

Jeff Watt 6-2013

(The examples below represent all of the seated non-standard figures that do not fit into any known iconography or textual explanations. For standing forms of Tara see the link above).