Mala Tara (Colombo National Museum)

Mala Tara statue
The statue of Mala Tara (Sinhala: මාල තාරා) is a 10th-century silver alloyed sculpture of the goddess Tara discovered from Mannar in Sri Lanka. Presently, it is on the display at the National Museum of Colombo.

Goddess Tara
Tara is considered the most beloved goddess of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon (Jayawardene, 2016). She started to appear in the society of Sri Lanka around the seventh or eighth century A.D. and was worshipped until the fifteenth century A.D. (Jayawardene, 2016). Evidence for Tara worship in Sri Lanka is found in the Mihintale Slab Inscriptions of Mahinda IV (956-972 A.D.) where she is referred to as goddess Mininal (Gunawardana, 2019; Jayawardene, 2016). The largest figure of Tara in the country is found in Buduruwagala (Gunawardana, 2019).

The statue
This statue of Tara was discovered near the lighthouse at Mannar in 1957 (Gunawardana, 2019; Wikramagamage, 1990). It is a solid-cast, silver alloyed statue of 5.4 cm tall (Gunawardana, 2019).

The goddess is depicted here in the seated posture of Virasana or Paryankasana (Gunawardana, 2019; Wikramagamage, 1990). It has a high headdress (Karanda Makuta) containing a miniature figure of the Buddha (Wikramagamage, 1990). The upper body is naked and the lower body is covered with a flimsy cloth. The head together with the upper body is slanted towards the left, but the face looks up in the opposite direction (Gunawardana, 2019). An object similar to the shape of a snake (white) is held by both hands and holding a white snake is a common feature of Janguli Tara (Wikramagamage, 1990). The earrings have the appearance of the form of a Makara (dragon) head.

According to Gunawardana, this statue represents Puja Tara (the goddess of offerings) who plays a minor role as the attendants of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in a mystic circle, described as Vajradhatumandala (Gunawardana, 2019). Prof. Dohaniyan believes that this bronze may have come to Sri Lanka from Magadha in India (Wikramagamage, 1990). 

See also

1) Gunawardana, N., 2019. Identify the statues of Goddess Tārā in Sri Lanka and Evaluate the Importance with Trade. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 9(9), pp.404-410.
2) Jayawardene, S., 2016. Sri Lanka's Tārā Devī. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 61(2), pp.1-30.
3) Wikramagamage, C., 1990. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)] Section II: 500-100 A.D. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Vol. IV: Sculpture. p.73.

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This page was last updated on 3 September 2022

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