Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Tara, Green (Hand Gestures)

Tara Iconography

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
1. Generosity Gesture
2. Fearless Gesture
3. Holding A Vase
4. Miscellaneous
--- Teaching Gesture
--- Upraised Fearless Gesture
--- Others...

Video: Tara Mudras

Study Topics:
- Non-iconic Forms of Tara
- Iconic Forms of Tara
- Four Main Gestures of Green Tara
- Other Forms of Tara

The variations in gestures that Green Tara commonly performs are based either on non-iconic depictions, primarily motivated by artistic choice or devotion, or the gestures are based on strict iconic descriptions found in Tantric iconographic texts.

The most common hand gesture for both painting and sculpture is that of generosity which is typical for the solitary form Tara and for the popular Three Deity Configuration also known as the Khadarivana Tara - Tara of the acacia grove.

In many of the descriptions of Tara with reference to the eight fears and accompanying Eight Taras she can be performing either the gesture of fearlessness or the the gesture of generosity. There does not appear to be any consistency with the visual depictions however depending on the source literature the fearless gesture can be stipulated in some texts. The fearless gesture can also be performed with the hand upraised at the chest with the fingers pointing upwards and the palm facing outward. This style of the gesture is far more rare than the placement above the right knee and not generally described in the ritual texts.

Vase Holding:
The central Green Tara as described in the Twenty-one Taras according to the tradition of Atisha should properly hold a vase in the right hand. Each of the twenty-one Taras also hold a vase in the right hand. The vase is the identifying and defining characteristic for each of the Taras in the Atisha system.

There are several additional gestures associated with Tara such as the teaching gesture performed with both hands at the heart, the upraised fearless gesture, and the left hand in a variety of alternate placements such as resting across the left knee, or with palm down and supporting the body from behind.

Jeff Watt 2-2022

(The images below are only a selection of examples).