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Seated Tara

In the eastern region of the Indian subcontinent the period from approximately 750 to 1200 is known as the Pala period. The Pala kings were generally lauded as generous and devout Buddhist patrons, and they supported an active artistic and scholarly community. During this period in Bihar, where there are many sites associated with the Buddha's birth and preaching. Buddhism flourished at great monastic universities such as Kurkihar, the source of this sculpture. The idealized features of this image of the Buddhist divinity Tara represent a high point of Pala art.

Tara is Sanskrit for "star" or "constellation" and also relates to the verb tar, "to lead over or guide across." Thus the goddess's name indicates her role as a beacon on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. Although her attributes vary, here she appears in the form associated with the Buddha Amoghasiddi (denoting the "all-accomplishing insight" attained by Buddha during his enlightenment) and like him, she is green. She has two hands in this form: her right hand in the gesture of gift bestowing and her left holding the stalk of a closed blue lotus.

The work dates to the early Pala period, when a cohesive regional style had begun to develop and spread throughout eastern India. As it demonstrates, early Pala reliefs are characterized by a highly appealing liveliness, carved derails, of textiles and jewelry, and an emphasis on the human torso.

Catalogue Description:
The Buddhist deity, Tara, seated in lalitasana on an elaborate throne. Her right foot supported by a lotus, she is flanked by two devotees and her right hand is extended in varada mudra, her left holds a nilotpala (blue lotus). The goddess is surrounded by a circular aureole, with pearl and flame borders, and two kinnara (heavenly dwarf musicians) are shown in the upper border among stylized flowers. The base of the throne is flanked by two lions disgorging pearls. The Buddhist creed is inscribed in the nimbus: "invoke the presence of the Dharma, the universal truth taught and embodied by the..." (god or goddess in the image), see Huntington, "Leaves of the Bodhi Tree," p. 124.


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