The Twenty-one Taras

  • Хорин нэгэн Дарь эх / Xorin negen Dar' ex
  • Qorin nigen dar-a eke
  • sGrol ma nyer gcig ma
  • Ekaviṃśati Tārā
  • Thangka
  • 19th century
  • Pigment on cotton
  • Height: 85 cm / Width: 43 cm / Depth: not filled
  • Collection: Hans Leder, Inv. Nr.: 57125
  • Néprajzi Múzeum Budapest
This coloured print shows the Twenty-One Taras. There are differing traditions of the Twenty-One Taras in Tibetan Buddhism. The Twenty-one Taras according to the tradition of Atisha was very popular among followers of the Geluk order and there are numerous Tibetan and Mongolian paintings depicted them, thus documenting their wide-spread practice, as in the case of this painting. Iconographically, all of the Taras appear very similar, having one face and two arms and taking the same sitting posture. Having the same appearance, they differ, however, in the colour of the body, ranging from white, yellow, orange, red, maroon to black (or dark-blue). Another feature can be that some of the Taras have a semiwrathful facial expression with an open mouth displaying sharp canine teeth. Each of the Taras holds the stem of a lotus flower in her raised left hand. With their right hand, they display the boon-granting gesture, often holding a vase. The group of Twenty-One Tara is presided over by the Green Tara of the Khadira forest, occasionally accompanied by her two attendants, the peaceful yellow Marichi and the fierceful dark Ekajati, that usually stand upright on her left and right side. Both are not depicted on this coloured print. It can differ whether the Green Tara is regarded as part of this group of twenty-one, thus being surrounded by twenty Taras depicted on a small scale like on this print, or seen as a separate deity in addition to the group of twenty-one Taras. Directly above the Green Tara is placed her spiritual father, the red Buddha Amitabha, sitting in meditation with an alms-bowl on his lap.
© Olaf Czaja
The Twenty-one Taras
/ Mongolia / 19th century