The Tara thangkas come from the ‘Prayers to the twenty-one Taras,’ wherein their distinct features, iconography, practice method, and benefits are described. Taras are very auspicious deities that one prays to for luck, good health, wealth, and prosperity, to overcome obstacles, to be protected from different forces of evils, and whatnot. The most popular ones are White Tara and Green Tara. They are all portrayed as peaceful deities.
Tara: The Mother of Liberation and Compassion
Background and Significance
Better known as the "Mother of all Buddhas," Tara is a pivotal deity in Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism. Her name, which means "to cross" in Sanskrit, represents her function as a guide who helps practitioners "cross the ocean of samsara (cycle of birth, death, and rebirth)."
Tara, who represents the feminine aspect of Buddhism, is revered as a Bodhisattva and occasionally as a completely enlightened Buddha. Her beginnings can be traced back to old folktales, one of which describes how she emerged from the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara's tear, signifying her profound bond with compassion.
Attributes and Iconography
Tara manifests in many ways, with White Tara and Green Tara being the most widely recognized. Green Tara represents active compassion; she is seen with one foot outstretched and in a half-open lotus attitude, ready to act. She is holding a utpala flower, or blue lotus, and making the gesture of mudra with her hand, which denotes protection and fulfilling wishes.
White Tara, linked to healing and longevity, is depicted sitting in a lotus position with her eyes on her face, palms, and soles, signifying her omniscience and alertness. She makes the sign of protection while holding a white lotus that is in blossom. A third eye, which represents understanding, is seen on the brow of Tara in both of her forms.
Associated Stories and Beliefs
Many stories highlight Tara's kindness and dedication to helping sentient beings. According to one mythology, she committed to assisting creatures until the end of samsara, and she promised to always materialize as a female to combat the idea that it could be easier to do so in a male form.
In a different tale, she is described as responding quickly to people who call on her when they are in peril, as when they are navigating choppy waters or facing dangerous animals. Tara's twenty-one manifestations—each with a unique color and quality—address the worries and difficulties practitioners encounter, underscoring her complex function in guidance and protection. Invoking Tara's blessings and guidance, many Buddhists recite the "21 Praises to Tara" as a regular ritual.
Tara is a source of endless wisdom and compassion, and she serves as a lighthouse of hope for a significant number of practitioners. Her feminine embodiment defies social standards and is evidence of the essential responsibilities that women play in the spiritual world. Tara, the Mother of Liberation, protects those who come to her for guidance from the many difficulties of samsara and tenderly leads them to the shores of enlightenment.