Tara, the Buddhist Savior

Period: Malla period

Date: 14th century

Culture: Nepal (Kathmandu Valley)

Medium: Gilt copper alloy with color, inlaid with semiprecious stones

Dimensions: H. 23 1/4 in. (59.1 cm); H. incl. base 26 in. (66 cm); W. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm); D. 5 in. (12/7 cm); Wt. 23 lbs (10.4 kg)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Louis V. Bell Fund, 1966

Accession Number: 66.179


The goddess Tara epitomizes the amalgamation of older mother-goddess cults and Buddhism. Her concept evolved in India and by the Gupta period, she had become the most important goddess in Buddhism. Tara is understood primarily as a savior and is, therefore, the female counterpart of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, with whom she is often portrayed. Tara is dressed in a long, floral-printed dhoti, and a shawl is draped over her left shoulder. She is richly adorned and wears a crown, earrings, necklaces, armbands, wide cuffs, a belt, and anklets. A lotus stalk is attached to her left arm in a manner first found in Nepal after the twelfth century. The elongated proportions of the figure and elaboration of the jewelry date the sculpture to the fourteenth century. The fact that the face has been painted with gold indicates that the bronze was once worshipped in Tibet.