Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Buddhism, Room 18, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art

Tara

Sculpture
12th Century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Black basalt
Brief Description
This figure of Tara is carved out of black basalt. It was produced during the 12th century in Bihar, 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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 119cm
  • Width: 58cm
  • Depth: 30cm
  • Weight: 290kg
Style
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 (Located on pedestal. Read by Dr Sayantani Pal, University of Calcutta.)
Gallery Label
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)
Historical context
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.
Production
Bihar, Eastern India
Subject depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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: 9788476649466p.147, Cat.109
  • 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
  • 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.) :p.26
Other Number
IPN.86 - Previous number
Collection
Accession Number
05228(IS)

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record createdMarch 21, 2002
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