Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Tara, Wrathful (Various Forms)

Tara Iconography

Forms & Types:
- Description (below)
- Accomplishing All Activities (yellow, white)
- Mahachinakrama Tara (black)
- Ishvara Uddiyana Tara (red)
- Tara, Peaceful by Day and Wrathful by Night (white)
- Twenty-one Taras (Surya Gupta)
- Twenty-one Taras (Atisha)
- Wrathful Appearance Page
- Confusions
- Others...

- Tara Introduction: Three Points
- Tara: Wrathful Appearance
- All Tara Videos

The examples below include four wrathful forms of Tara that belong to unique lineages of practice, Accomplishing All Activities, Mahachinakrama Tara, Uddiyana Tara and Peaceful by Day and Wrathful by Night Tara. Aside from those four, the majority of the examples below belong to either the Surya Gupta or Atisha systems of Twenty-one Taras.

Some of the depictions of the Twenty-one Taras of the Surya Gupta tradition are semi-wrathful in appearance and others are wrathful. The artists do not always follow precisely the textual description distinguishing between semi-wrathful and wrathful.

The Atisha Tradition of the Twenty-one Taras has no wrathful forms but some of the Taras are slightly fierce with an open mouth and eyes. Textually these Atisha figures are described as semi-peaceful and semi-wrathful (see examples: HAR #20431, 20431).

All Accomplishing Tara:
"...Great Devi Tara, yellow in color, with eight faces, the main face yellow. The three right [faces] are black, green and blue. The three left [faces] are white, red and blue. The face above is smoke colored and fearful with three eyes. With sixteen hands, in the right are a sword, utpala, arrow, hook, stick, curved knife and a gesture of removing fear. [In the] left [hands] are a lasso along with a threatening gesture, skullcup, bow, katvanga, a Vajra together with a lasso, the head of Brahma, gems, and a vase. Wearing a garland of heads and adorned with ornaments, wreathed in sunlight. The right leg is straight [standing] atop Indra, Rudra, Brahma and Vishnu." (Sadhanamala & Drub Tab Gyatso).

Mahachinakrama Tara:
'Tara, black, [with] one face and four hands. The first two [hands] hold a curved knife and skullcup. The lower right a sword and the lower left an utpala. [With] three eyes and bared fangs, brown hair bristling upwards, swelling breasts and a belly hanging down. Having a lower garment of tiger skin and adorned with skulls and snakes. Standing on a corpse seat in a manner with the left leg extended.' (One Hundred Methods of Accomplishment, Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557).

Ishvara Uddiyana Tara:
'...Arya Tara, red in colour, with four faces and eight arms. The main face is red, right black, left green, above yellow, [each with] three eyes. The right hands hold a damaru drum, skullcup filled with blood, sword and vajra [scepter]. The left hands [hold] an utpala, jewel, katvanga and a bell. The left leg is extended in a dancing manner. Adorned with a crown of skulls, necklace of fresh heads, and the five mudras; wearing a tiger skin skirt, smiling and fierce, with yellow hair flowing upward, standing in the middle of a mass of fire.' (Taranata, Rinjung Gyatsa, volume 1, page 293).

Jeff Watt 3-2021