Tara Statues Portray the “Mother of Liberation”

The Divine Origin of Tara Statues

The inspiration behind Tara statues is a renown Buddhist deity that first appeared in the “Prajnaparamita Sutra”. However, the meaning of Tara statues found in the sutra was vague and mostly coincided with the rapidly evolving popularity of Mahayana Buddhism. Eventually, about 5 centuries later, her essence evolved to become expressed as the “compassion of perfected wisdom”.

As a result, the first identifiable Tara statue appeared in the 7th century A.C.E. This standing Green Tara statue is still viewable today at cave 6 in the Ellora Cave complex located at Maharashtra India. Although this stone image is rather plain, the character and appearance of Tara statues would soon become much more elaborate.

Indeed, the worship of the Tara Goddess would take root in both Mahayana and the more conservative Theravada Buddhism. Additionally, the cult of Tara would soon take root in Tibet and Nepal as a component of Tibetan Buddhism. The wide acceptance of Tara is attributed her Hindu origins and the close affiliation between Hinduism and Buddhism.

Evolution of Tara Statues

The worship of Tara statues spread rapidly with the rise of the Pala Empire in 8th century India. Additionally, Tantric Buddhism would play an important role in the evolution and growing popularity of the Bodhisattva Tara.

As Tantrism evolved with the Pala Empire it was introduced to Tibet by Padmasambhava in the 8th century. It was in Tibet that the character and physical appearance of Tara would gain in complexity. Additionally, in Tibetan Buddhism, Tara was adopted as a fully enlightened Buddha, whereas in Mahayana she remained a Bodhisattva.

Masterpiece Green Tara Statue

Click the image to view our masterpiece Green Tara statue created using the traditional lost wax method.

Tara’s Birth & Commitment to Feminism

In Tibetan Buddhism, Tara was born from a teardrop that fell from the eye of Avalokitesvara. Tibetan Buddhists also believe that she is the female aspect and consort of Avalokiteshvara.

However, Tara is also fiercely independent and she is arguably the worlds first feminist. This is due to her absolute refusal to accept reincarnation in male form. Indeed, she vowed to remain a female Bodhisattva until females are better represented among the ranks of the Buddhas.

21 Variations of Tara Statues

The complexity of Tara evolved into 21 variations which were based on the 21 verses taken from the “Praises of the 21 Taras”. However, not all of the Buddhist schools agreed which praise should be matched with each variation of Tara. Unfortunately, there is a difference of opinion but the Tara meanings are generally quite similar.

Based on the “Praises of the 21 Taras”, devotees developed a complete set of 21 Tara Statues which are used to eliminate the 8 fears and also the 16 fears. In fact, Tara is believed to represent an entire class of deities.

Also, Tara statues are depicted standing or seated in different postures such as full lotus, half lotus and sometimes one leg extended. Furthermore, she can be depicted as wrathful, semi-wrathful and peaceful.

Green Tara Statues – “Khadiravani”

The most common and popular embodiment of Tara is known as “Green Tara” or Khadiravaṇi. In this form she is known as a forest goddess. Her pure land in Mt Potala is described as a lush evergreen paradise with waterfalls, birds, flowers and trees.

Green Tara khadiravani
Thangka paintings of Green Tara depict her in her natural color and forest surroundings.

Symbolism of Green Tara Statues

Green Tara is also associated with quickness of movement and she is always ready to spring to action and relieve suffering. As a result, seated Green Tara statues are depicted with one leg extended and the other leg pulled in to reflect meditative contemplation.

Additionally, the Green Tara statue meaning is strongly associated with protection from fear and the eight obscurations of pride, delusion, hatred, jealousy, wrong views, avarice, desire and deluded doubts. As a result, many Tara statues are shown depicting the Abhaya mudra. This is known as the mudra of fearlessness and protection.

However, Green Tara statues display the Abhaya mudra with the left hand, in contrast to Shakyamuni who uses the right hand with fingers straight up and palm flat and facing outwards.

Furthermore, Green Tara statues hold the stem of a lotus flower between the ring finger and the thumb. Additionally, the remaining three fingers remain upright and symbolize the components of the “Triple Gem” – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

Green Tara Statue Displays “Protection Mudra” with left Hand

Tara statues Abhaya Mudra
Green Tara statue meaning is displayed with the Abhaya “Protection” mudra depicted with left hand. Click the image to learn more.

The blue lotus flower (uptala) represents enlightenment and it is one of the Goddess Tara symbols. This flower has a special characteristic in that it releases it’s fragrance at night with the moon. Thus, she has become affiliated with the moon and night time.

Green Tara’s affiliation with the moon draws a parallel with White Tara symbolism. This is because White Tara is believed to glow with the brightness of a thousand white moons.

The Goddess Tara symbols are further enhanced by displaying the “gift giving” Varada mudra with the right hand. Additionally, she is commonly depicted with 2 uptala (lotus) flowers growing over each shoulder. One of them remains closed to entice devotees to reach for the unopened rewards of Nirvana that awaits them. 

Green Tara Mantra Meaning

The Green Tara mantra is “oṃ tāre tuttāre ture svāhā“. The English translation means “I prostrate to the Liberator, Mother of all the Victorious Ones.” “Mother of the Victorious ones” refers to the belief that Tara is the mother of the Tathagatas (Buddhas).

oṃ tāre tuttāre ture svāhā”

Green Tara mantra benefits induce strength in devotees to overcome their fears and the above mentioned obscurations. It is one of the most common mantras used in Tibetan Buddhist practice to induce a deep meditative state.

“7-Eyed” White Tara Symbolism

White Tara symbolism is believed to glow with the radiance of a thousand full moons. She is associated with healing, longevity and compassion for all sentient life. It is believed that her compassion for sentient beings exceeds that of their own mothers. Each White Tara statue is depicted with seven eyes.

Click the image to learn more about White Tara and her “7-eyes”.

Indeed, the White Tara statue meaning is much enhanced with an extra eye in the middle of her forehead, between the brows and one eye on each of her hands and feet. As a result, all of her thoughts and actions are governed with the ultimate compassion and wisdom.

White Tara is also known as “Cintachakra” or the wish fulfilling wheel. White Tara symbolism is strongly affiliated with longevity and in Tibet, she is believed to be one of the three deities of long life.

In contrast with Green Tara, White Tara statues sit in full lotus or diamond pose. But on a similar note, White Tara statues also display the Varada mudra with the right hand and the Abhaya mudra with the left. Additionally, in Tibetan Buddhism White Tara is believed to be a fully enlightened Buddha.

White Tara Mantra

One common method of venerating White Tara is to recite her mantra: “Om Tare Tuttare Ture Mama Ayuh Punya Jñana Pustim Kuru Svaha”. The White Tara mantra benefits will inspire devotees to defeat the defilements and overcome their resultant bad karma.

“Om Tare Tuttare Ture Mama Ayuh Punya Jñana Pustim Kuru Svaha”

Dancing Red Tara Statues – “Kurukulla”

Red Tara statues depict a wrathful emanation of Tara. Additionally, this deity is known as “Kurukulla” and she is a deity of enchantment. As a result, her devotees believe that she can give them the power to bend people to their will. For example, gratuitous recitation of her mantra can influence a politician, estranged lover or even a king.

Click the image to learn more about the magic powers of Dancing Red Tara.

Her mantra is recited as “Om Kurukulle Hrih Svaha”  – 10,000 recitations will fulfill your desires, 30,000 recitations will subdue a government minister and 100,000 can subdue a king. However, a condition of the mantra’s effectiveness is that the intentions of the inducer can only be virtuous and not evil.

“Om Kurukulle Hrih Svaha”

Kurukulla has a wrathful appearance compared to both White and Green Tara statues. Dancing Red Tara statues are depicted with 4 arms and a frightening countenance. Additionally, she is usually standing in Dakini pose on a human corpse which symbolizes the death of negativity.

Dancing Red Tara statues are surrounded by a ring of flames that represent pristine awareness. Kurukulla holds a flower bow and arrow that is drawn back and ready to fire. In her other hands she holds a flower noose and flower goad.

World Class Tara Statues

I hope you enjoyed my brief introduction to the venerable Buddhist deity – Tara. Please enjoy our world class selection of each variation of the Tara Goddess displayed in our Buddha statue gallery. All our Tara statues were handmade by highly skilled artisans and each statue is unique and original.

Indeed, our statues were created by the same artisans who have supplied the Tibetan monasteries for many centuries. Every Buddha statue comes with free international shipping and your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Additional Sources:

  • http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/Praises_to_21_Tara
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tara_(Buddhism)