Seated Tara, 16th c.
20 in. x 13 1/2 in. x 9 1/2 in. (50.8 cm x 34.29 cm x 24.13 cm)
The goddess Tārā is worshipped predominantly in Tibet and its surrounding regions within the context of Vajrayāna Buddhism, an esoteric mode of Mahāyāna Buddhism that promotes an elaborate system of ritual, visualization, and meditation practices that accelerate the journey to nirvāṇa. Vajrayāna Buddhists visualize the universe as a composition of masculine and feminine energies, both of which must be understood in order to attain enlightenment.
According to Tibetan popular belief, Tārā was born from tears shed by Avalokiteśvara, who wept after witnessing the tremendous suffering of all living beings trapped in saṃsāra. She is thus considered to be a female emanation of his compassion, and sometimes his female counterpart. Tibetan Buddhists revere her as the archetype of compassion, protection, and virtuous action, and some regard her as the “Mother of All Buddhas.”
The name Tārā translates to “star” in Sanskrit, and is derived from the Sanskrit root “tṛ,” to cross over, a fitting name for this supremely compassionate entity who guides aspiring practitioners on the path to awakening, a journey that is often allegorized in Buddhist scripture and iconography as the crossing of a river or sea to a distant shore. According to Tibetan Buddhist legend, she has vowed to subject herself to continual rebirth in saṃsāra—always in a female form—to protect and assist those who call upon her in their practice.
-Anabella Walser ’22, Peggy Phelps Curatorial Intern
Cast in bronze, in two parts.
Seated Tara from Nepal, of thin-walled cast bronze. The Goddess is displayed with her left hand in a mudra and her right palm opened outward. She has pieced, elongated earlobes, and is wearing earrings shaped like flowers (one is lost). She is adorned with a double-stranded necklace, looped twice, and arm and wrist bands. She also has bands on both feet. Tara is seated on a lotus throne, with her chest bared and a sash around her shoulders and across her left breast. Her hair is styled in two top knots. The statue appears to have been gilded, but it is all but worn off at present.
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