Eastern Tibet; 19th century
Pigments on cloth
Rubin Museum of Art
F1997.15.1 (HAR 237)
In Buddhist narrative paintings, scenes are arranged clockwise around a central image. These scenes have both literal and metaphorical meanings related to Buddhist practice and teachings. In this narrative painting the female deity Tara is seated gracefully on a lotus flower in the center and offers travelers protection from the “Eight Great Fears.” These eight hazards depict the perils that might befall ancient travelers in India, where Tara’s worship originated. Although some of these fears may not be common threats for most people today, many are dangers to which nearly anyone can relate.
In Buddhist art, protection is associated with several categories of deities, including wrathful protectors and enlightened peaceful deities. Even before the advent of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, goddesses in South Asia were, and still are, considered all-powerful in their protective aspects. The goddess Tara represents enlightened action and is the most beloved protective figure in Himalayan Buddhism.
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