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Seated Tara

Asian Art

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.

MEDIUM Black schist
  • Place Made: Bihar, India
  • DATES 9th century
    DYNASTY Pala Dynasty
    PERIOD Pala Period
    DIMENSIONS 30 1/4 x 15 3/4 x 7 3/4 in., 181 lb. (76.8 x 40 x 19.7 cm, 82.1kg) mount (overall): 30 × 17 1/2 × 8 in. (76.2 × 44.5 × 20.3 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Purchased with funds given by Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    CAPTION Seated Tara, 9th century. Black schist, 30 1/4 x 15 3/4 x 7 3/4 in., 181 lb. (76.8 x 40 x 19.7 cm, 82.1kg). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner, 1995.136. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1995.136_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 1995.136_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    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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