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Tara

  • Object:

    Sculpture

  • Place of origin:

    Bihar (made)

  • Date:

    12th Century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Black basalt

  • Museum number:

    05228(IS)

  • Gallery location:

    Buddhism, Room 18, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art, case PL3

The goddess Tara (literally 'saviouress') was widely worshipped in later Buddhism as an independent deity. In particular, as a divine mother. Here she is represented holding a flowering lotus stem (padma) in one hand, whilst gesturing the granting of wishes with her open hand (varada-mudra). The Green Tara, Syama-tara, is closely identified with Avalokitesvara Padmapani, the Buddhist embodiment of compassion and she is often regarded as his female manifestation.

Tara is set against an elaborate backplate (prabha), which frames her figure and defines her status. She is standing against a throne back, with upright pillars, a cross-beam and a large nimbus framing her head. Behind the throne-back are two stupas that flank her. This degree of architectural elaboration underscores the way in which such icons functioned: as miniature or replica shrines and temples. This message is supported by the presence of two smaller attendant figures, both of whom appear to be guardians (dharmapalas); one leans on a axe, the other has the combative stance of a Mahakali.

A dedicatory inscription reciting the Ye Dharma Buddhist creed appears upon the nimbus. It is expressed in Sanskrit and is written in the siddhamatoka script of medieval eastern India.

Physical description

This figure of Tara carries a lotus stem and a flower (padma). Tara is regarded as the female manifestation of Avalokitesvara Padmapani, the Buddhist lord of compassion. There are inscriptions on the backplate and on the pedestal.

Place of Origin

Bihar (made)

Date

12th Century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Black basalt

Marks and inscriptions

Ye dharma hetu prabhava hetum tesham tathagatasya vada ttesham cha yonirodha evam va di mahashramana
Located on back plate. The Buddhist creed.
Read by Dr Sayantani Pal, University of Calcutta.

Sri Valachandrasya
Belonging to Valachandra
Located on pedestal.
Read by Dr Sayantani Pal, University of Calcutta.

Dimensions

Height: 119 cm, Width: 58 cm, Depth: 30 cm, Weight: 290 kg

Historical context note

The name Tara translates as 'saviouress'. It is in this role that such goddesses assumed an important place, as female counterparts to the Buddhist saviours or Bodhisattvas.

Descriptive line

This figure of Tara is carved out of black basalt. It was produced during the 12th century in Bihar, Eastern India.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.147, Cat.109
L'escultura en el temples indis : l'art de la devoció : exposició organitzada per la Fundació "La Caixa" i el Victoria & Albert Museum, Londres. [Barcelona: Obra social, Fundació "la Caixa", c2007 Number: 9788476649466
Orientations; vol. 40. no. 4; May 2009; The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum.
Cam Sharp Jones, Interpreting the Iconography of Tara in Sculptural form. p.64
p.26
Arts of Bengal : the heritage of Bangladesh and eastern India : an exhibition organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum : 9 November-30 December 1979, Whitechapel Art Gallery ..., 12 January-17 February 1980, Manchester City Art Gallery ... . [London]: Whitechapel Art Gallery, [1979] Number: 085488047X (pbk.) :

Labels and date

Tara
1100–1200
Bihar, North-East India
Basalt
The name Tara means ‘saviouress’. She is a female
bodhisattva widely worshipped for her protective
powers and compassionate nature. Here she holds
a lotus in one hand and makes the gesture of granting
wishes (varada mudra) with the other. The architectural
composition, with Tara standing against an elaborate
throne back, suggests that the relief was a miniature
shrine.
Museum no. 05228(IS)
1100–1200 [1/4/2009]

Production Note

Bihar, Eastern India

Materials

Black Basalt

Subjects depicted

Buddhist

Categories

Buddhism; Sculpture; India Museum

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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