This exceptionally beautiful brass-cast, plated with copper, revealing gold-like lustre and magnificence, represents the principal female Buddhist deity Tara with interknitted forefingers and thumbs holding in them the sacred threads with which she drags those who are caught in the tumultuous seas out of it for, as her name means, she is the goddess who helps wade across the impassable sea, symbolically also the sea of life. The image, rare in its aesthetic beauty, elegance, finish, sculptural quality and divine aura, has been rendered pursuing Tibetan-Nepalese idiom of iconography and metal casting.
A tenderly conceived figure with timeless youth, the goddess has been
conceived with divine lustre and great quiescence on her face. Her
figure has been adorned with brilliant jewels : beautiful ‘kundalas’
on her ears, variously designed neck and breast ornaments, belly-band
and an elaborate crown with repeats of ‘tri-ratna’ motifs symbolic of
three Buddhist cardinals : Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Her beautifully
pleated ‘antariya’ – lower wear, spread over her legs and down on the
seat, and her elegantly designed sash lying on her shoulders, arms and
unfurling on either side are exceptionally beautiful. An angular face
bowed a little with a broad forehead and pointed chin, hair with
curling contours not fully cover by her crown and knotted coiffure in
its centre, sharp straight nose aligning with elegantly moulded
eyebrows, small cute lips, three-fourth closed lotus eyes, a well
defined neck, broad shoulders, sensuously moulded well protruding
voluptuous breasts, subdued belly and broader hips, a tall figure with
tall arms, fine long fingers and tender feet, all reveal her sublime
beauty and absolute womanhood.
The supreme female deity in the Buddhist line, more impressive and
effective, Tara is often equated with Buddha in her compassionate
nature and the power to redeem. Buddhist texts contend Tara to be the
utmost powerful divinity, so much so that her ‘smile made the sun to
shine’ and her frown, ‘darkness to envelop the terrestrial sphere’. As
the perfection of wisdom and embodiment of the highest metaphysical
principle Tara is Prajnaparmita and is considered as having priority
over Buddha. She is revered as the light and the prime source of
Buddhahood. In Mahayana Buddhism Tara’s significance is far greater.
She is venerated as the mother of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Similar to Brahmanical line where all deity-forms look like the forms
of Devi, the primordial female power, all female deities in Buddhist
line look like different forms of Tara that the Buddhist texts
designate as the ‘Tara’s Bhedas’ – forms of Tara. Though more popular
in Tibetan worship-cult, Tara is the universal deity of Buddhism.
Texts perceive her as the most benevolent, compassionate, gentle,
protective and playful deity full of youth and vigour.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
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