Tara is the Goddess of compassion, the powerful feminine counterpart of the bodhisattva ( the next Buddha to be) Avalokiteshvara. She occupies a central display position at the British Museum now. The image a stunning full statue is gilded and is watched over by another gilded bronze — a slightly smaller statue of a 16th century Avalokiteshvara from Nepal.
Tara is supposed to be one of the finest examples of figural bronze and is supposed to be 8th century AD.
This particular statue discovered somewhere between Batticaloa and Trincomalee in the East coast of Sri Lanka and lifted from the island was ” gifted” by Sir Robert Brownrigg to the British Museum (BM) .
Tara means star and she appears in Mahayana Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and particularly, Tibetan Lamaism, as a complex array of manifestations: goddess of ascetism and mysticism, mother creator, protectress of all humans as they journey across the sea of life.
The BM says that “the eyes and the elaborately arranged hair were doubtless inlaid with precious stones and a small niche in the headdress would have contained a seated image of Buddha. Tara’s right hand is shown in the varamudra – the gesture of giving and although the left hand is empty it may have held a lotus.”
Tara’s creation as myths go is a an interesting fantasy. According to popular belief she came into existence from a tear of Avalokiteshvara, which fell to the ground and formed a lake. Out of its waters rose up a lotus which opened to reveal the goddess – a truly painless birth.
She is the ” heavenly deity who hears cries of beings, experiencing misery in samsara; a world of continuous rebirth, death and suffering. As the female aspect of the universe, she gives birth to warmth compassion and relief from bad karma as experienced by ordinary beings in cyclic existence. She engenders, nourishes, smiles at the vitality of creation and has sympathy for all beings as a mother does for her children. “(an extract from http://www.kaalita.com/Asian_art.html)”
‘Tis a time in Sri Lanka we could do with her compassion, a powerful feminine force– so isn’t it a good time to ask the BM to return it to us in Sri Lanka?
Of course we must be prepared to guard, protect and preserve it as much she is supposed to protect us. I suppose she was too compassionate to put a hex on the ones who lifted her from here.
1. British Museum : Gilded Bronze figure of Tara: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/asia/g/gilded_bronze_figure_of_tara.aspx
2. The Goddess Tara: http://lakdiva.org/tara/
3. For more on various Tara manifestations see: http://www.crystalinks.com/tara.html
Photographs © Chulie de Silva