Images of the Goddess Tara in the Private Collection of a Hungarian Collector

Images of the Goddess Tara in the Private Collection of a Hungarian Collector

Sarolta Tatár

(53rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, St. Petersburg 2010)

Tara, being a goddess of Indian origin, has become deeply connected to core Buddhistic concepts: she is a bodhisattva and a consort of Avalokitesvara. She has become identified with the Prajna, or with the Buddha’s active power. But on a popular basis, she has been identified with numerous local deities, and the aspect of her that is most popular is her function as a protective goddess, most notably protecting against perils listed in groups of eight or sixteen dangers. The different functions of Tara are traditionally depicted in eight forms with twenty one hypostases. These forms incorporate those aspects of her that originally belonged to local deities. The colours of Tara are also used independently in magic rituals that reference the goddess: thus a green circle is drawn when performing a ritual of protection, and a white circle is drawn when performing a ritual for increasing life.

This paper looks at three depictions of the goddess in a private collection. These include an image of the Green Tara, who embodies protection (the most important of her functions) and who is traditionally regarded as the original form of the goddess. The collection also contains a Red Tara, who embodies subjugation, (also known as Kurukulla originally) and who is believed to destroy demons and injuries. In this instance, she is holding a red flask, which identifies her as the subjugator. Finally, there is an image of a White Tara (also known as Cintacakra), who embodies longevity, bestows life and who is believed to defeat diseases and evil spirits.White Tara was also conceived in the specialized function of cheating death. The White Tara is also known as „mother of the conquerors”.

The collection also contains an image of Avalokitesvara, of whom Tara is considered to be an avatar, with two smaller images of a White and Green Tara in the two lower comers of the tangkha.

The goal of this paper is to analyze the iconography of these three depictions of Tara, namely their sitting positions, hand movements, other attributes and other deities depicted in the same image. The images are painted on silk and may have been made in Tibet or Mongolia