Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Set: Twenty-One Taras (MFA Boston)

MFA Boston Page

The three compositions below belong to a twenty-one painting set depicting the Twenty-one Taras according to the system of Dipamkara Atisha. Only three compositions are currently known from this set of paintings. The style of painting is Khyenri and the set was likely created in the mid to late 16th century based on stylistic comparison with another set of paintings dated to the beginning of the 17th century.

Video: Three Taras

Each composition has a name written in Tibetan below the central figure of Tara. The inscription for #19 is legible with all of the letters intact. For #9 most of the letters are legible. The inscription for painting #20 is the most abraded with only half the letters legible. A tentative identification for this form of Tara was based on comparing the remaining letters of the inscription with a list of names of the Twenty-one Taras along with the colour of the figure.

The three figures of Tara represented here from the set of twenty-one are:
- Tara Displaying the Gesture of the Three Jewels (number #9)
- Tara Removing Suffering (number #19)
- Tara Pacifying Contagion (number #20)

Jeff Watt 3-2021 [updated 5-2021]

(See Conservation in Action: Tibetan Tara Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston).
Praise to Tārā with Twenty-One Verses of Homage:

[9] "Homage to you, whose fingers grace your heart,
Displaying the mudrā of the Three Jewels.
Graced by wheels in all directions,
Your natural radiance overwhelms all."

[19] "Homage to you, sovereign of divine hosts,
Served by gods and kiṃnaras.
Your resplendence, an armor of joy,
Pacifies strife and clears away nightmares."

[20] "Homage to you, whose two eyes shine brightly
Like the sun and the moon when it’s full.
Tuttārā, with twice-uttered hara,
You pacify the most intractable ills."

Source Text: 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha: Namastāraikaviṃśati­stotra. Praise to Tārā with Twenty-One Verses of Homage (Namastāraikaviṃśati­stotra­guṇa­hitasahita, sgrol ma la phyag ’tshal nyi shu rtsa gcig gis bstod pa phan yon dang bcas pa).