Highly revered in Vajrayana Buddhism, the Divine 21 Tara Goddess, a meditation deity, is one of the essential Bodhisattvas. While the female Bodhisattva is a familiar figure in Vajrayana Buddhism, her origin is debated by many scholars. According to Sakta mythology, her origin is rooted in Hindu Tantric traditions. She is considered second of the 10 Mahavidyas, avatars of the great Mother Goddess Mahadevi, while Saivism claims her as Mahamaya. Such obscurity of origin has given birth to many forms of the divine Tara the female buddha, but regardless, she is always referred to as 'Tara.'
In Vajrayana Buddhism, Tara is regarded as the 'savior deity' or 'savioress,' liberating souls from the samsara's suffering, so practitioners revered her for understanding the teachings of compassion, love, and kindness. While in meditation, practitioners use deities' pictures or statues to visualize the virtues they represent. Therefore, 21 manifestations of Tara represent 21 different virtues necessary to attain Buddhahood. Each manifestation is in some form of attribute or quality like protection, healing, etc.
Throughout her 21 manifestations, Tara is depicted as a young woman of age 16 and manifests in primary colors: green, white, yellow, red, black, and blue. The 21 manifestations of Tara (21 Taras )are:
1. Noble Lady Tara Nyurma Pamo
A semi-wrathful Red Tara, also known as 'Pravira Tara,' who liberates all beings from the suffering of samsara. Protecting from fear with her compassionate power, she is invoked in times of fear and weakness. Depicted with an Utpala, holding a white conch shell, she symbolizes a swift and heroic annihilation of suffering.
2. Noble Lady Tara Loter Yangchenma
While all of the 21 manifestations of Tara relate to Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara), the Bodhisattva of compassion, it is White Tara, also known as 'Candrakanti Tara' that connects the closest to the Bodhisattva's compassionate core. She is regarded as Amoghasiddhi, one of the Bodhisattvasprajna, represented in the primary form of Tara, as the Perfection of Wisdom, or Padnananparmita. Her white Autumn Moon complexion symbolizes her pure compassion for our suffering, even more significant than a mother's love for her child, innocence, and sacrifice. She is depicted with seven eyes, indicating her compassionate attention to all beings' suffering. She is especially invoked for longevity, merit, and wisdom.
3. Noble Lady Tara Sonam Tobche
This Yellow Tara, also known as 'Kankavarna Tara,' is most related to wealth and possession. One can draw a comparison between Yellow Tara and the Hindu Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The yellow/golden color represents the color of gold, in other words, wealth and prosperity. She embodies abundance with the power to eradicate poverty and bless fortune. She is often depicted with two hands, three eyes, and Amoghasiddhi in her crown as she performs the 'varada mudra' in her right hand, signifying charity, and holds a blue utpala in her left. She is invoked for prosperity, success, and stability in their financial lives.
4. Noble Lady Tara Tsugtor Namgyalma
Known as the Victorious Ushnisha, Sanskrit referring to the topknot upon the crown of a Buddha, this Golden Tara signifies one of the thirty-two significant marks of a Buddha. She is also called 'Ushnishavijaya Tara' She is revered for her long life, energy, and vitality. She carries a nectar vase containing an elixir of immortality.
5. Noble Lady Tara Wangdu Rigje Lhamo
Called 'Tara Proclaiming the Sound of HUM,' this Red Tara is also known as 'Humsvaranadini Tara' and 'Kurukulla,' which translates to "woman who is the cause of knowledge." She is depicted with a red complexion and donning a red garment. Her red coloring represents her connection to the fire element and her ability to inspire passion and vigor. She holds two arrows and gems and performs the "Abhaya mudra" (a gesture to banish fear) with her two pairs of hands.
6. Noble Lady Tara Jigje Chenmo: Wrathful and dark red, also known as 'Trailokyavijaya Tara,' she is called the 'Victorious over the Three Worlds.' Jigje means "fierce and frightening," and Chenmo means "the great one," implying that she is the great, fierce Tara. She is invoked for her ability to subdue all negative forces.
7. Noble Lady Tara Zhengyi Mithumba
Depicted with a wrathful expression and an open mouth, this Dark Blue Tara manifests Tara associated with personal spiritual power. She is alternatively referred to as 'Vadipramardani Tara.' She subdues the eight classes of harmful spirits and nine malignant spirit brothers. Ichnographically, she holds a black urn containing the fundamental forces necessary to overcome negative energies and destructive forces while seated on a sun disc that is sometimes blazing with flames. She is therefore called 'Tara Crushing Adversaries.' She is summoned in times of hurdles and hard times.
8. Noble Lady Tara Zhengyi Migyalma
This Dark Red Tara's name directly means 'the invincible one,' indicating her never losing nature. Wrathful and dark red, her compassion is swift, and she is an invincible heroine who can destroy any harm or criticism. Alternatively referred to as 'Vasitottamada Tara,' She is especially invoked in times of trouble or against people who harass and criticize, specifically during lawsuits.
9. Noble Lady Tara Sengdeng Nagchi
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This Green Tara is Known as the "mother of all Buddhas," she is depicted with two arms and, on occasion, four arms, performing the 'Varada Mudra' (gesture of generosity) and the 'Vitarka Mudra' (gesture of discussion and transmission). She also goes by the name 'Varada Tara.' She is seated on a lotus seat with her right legs extended a little indicating her subduing any untoward phenomena that can cause a problem or cause hindrances. Regarded as the original Tara, she is known for compassion, long life, healing, and serenity. She is often accompanied by her partner Amoghasiddhi in Mandalas. She is sometimes also regarded as Khadiravaṇi-Tārā (Tārā of the acacia forest) due to her close association with nature. She is one of the more represented manifestations of the divine Tara.
10. Noble Lady Tara Jigten Sumle Gyalma
Dispeller of Misery, this Red Tara's name means "the Tara who gains victory over all three worlds." Also referred to by the name 'Sokavinodana Tara,' she can protect all sentient beings from earthly materials and distractions. A victory banner accompanies her as she brings joy to all beings.
11. Noble Lady Tara Phagma Norter Drolma
This Orange Tara's name means "noble one," she is semi-wrathful and liberates beings from the suffering of poverty by bestowing wealth. She is also referred to by the name 'Jagadakarsana Tara.' She is depicted with a treasure vase signifying her abundance and ability to remove poverty.
12. Noble Lady Tara Tashi Donje
Peaceful in appearance, this Golden Yellow Tara represents balance and harmony. Tashi means "auspicious circumstances," and Donje means "actualizing," meaning she actualizes auspiciousness. She is also known as 'Mangalavabhasa Tara.' She is symbolized iconographically through an infinity knot. She is praised for bringing timely seasons, good harvests, healthy children, and prosperity.
13. Noble Lady Tara Yulle Gyalma
Semi-wrathful in appearance, she is the Dar Red Tara known as 'the Tara who gains victory over war' and can protect in times of obstacles and crisis. Also referred to as 'Paripacana Tara,' she stops wars literally and within people's hearts and emotions where they wage hostility in a more metaphorical sense. She is depicted with an open vajra.
14. Noble Lady Tara Thronyer Chen
She is the Black Tara related to the wrathful aspect. Also known as 'Caladbhrkuti Tara,' she is often depicted with multiple arms and resembles the Hindu goddess Kali. Her blue color symbolizes her ability to remove ignorance and negativity; her blue complexion represents righteous anger. Her gentle and peaceful nature is said to soothe the mind and bring stability. Her worship is believed to help overcome obstacles, increase wisdom and compassion, and bring peace and happiness to those who invoke her blessings.
15. Noble Lady Tara Rabzhima
Known as the 'Tara the Greatly Peaceful,' this White Tara is known for purifying negative energy and error. Also known as 'Mahasanti Tara,' she bears a peaceful and serene appearance with a complexion as white as the moon, representing her ability to purify. She holds a blue lotus with a vase on top of it.
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16. Noble Lady Tara Rigngag Tobjom
This Red Tara is 'the Destroyer of Bad Intentions,' as she can stop the harmful intentions of others, such as curses and spells. Her name, Rignagag, means misusing mantras or evil practices to harm others. Therefore, she holds the power to destroy such intentional harm and protects all beings from it. She is also alternatively referred to as 'Sanganasani Tara.'
17. Noble Lady Tara Pagme Nonma
This Orange Tara is alternatively referred to as 'Sukhasiddhi Tara.' She is the Tara associated with stopping violent activities such as robbery, gangsters, hunting, etc. Pagme means "immeasurable," and Nonma means "stopping," indicating her immeasurable power to stop such violent actions. She is peaceful in appearance and can be recognized by the golden stupa.
18. Noble Lady Tara Maja Chenmo
This peaceful White Tara is associated with protection from poison. Maja translates to peacock, signifying the ability of peacock's ability to turn poison into the beauty of its plumage, which is the symbolic similarity with the Tara. Iconographically, she is represented by a rabbit-marked moon. Alternatively, she is called 'Prapusti Tara.'
19. Noble Lady Tara Dugkarmo
Usually referred to as "Queen Umbrella," as her name means "white umbrella," this White Tara protects from nightmares, omens, and conflicts. She is depicted smiling but simultaneously semi-wrathful portraying her passion. Likewise, her symbol is a white umbrella. She is alternatively called 'Duhkadahana Tara.'
20. Noble Lady Tara Rito Loma Jonma
Rito roughly translates to 'mountain hermitage,' Loma means "leaves of trees," and Jonma means "wearing," hence her name roughly means "Tara wearing the leaves of a tree in her mountain retreat." This Golden Red Tara is also known as 'Siddhisambhava Tara.' She is known for her power to protect from epidemics, plagues, and illnesses. She is also known as Parnashavari. Symbolically, she can be recognized through her medicine-filled round vessel. She is invoked in times of sickness and weakness.
21. Noble Lady Tara Lhamo Ozer Chenma
Alternatively known as 'Paripurana Tara,' this White Tara is depicted with a serene appearance and protects life force, longevity, and animals from evil spirits or opposing forces. Referred to as the Great Mother of "brilliant light rays," she is the Tara that helps and protects all sentient beings from negative energies and summons back all the vitalities, instilling us with positive energy. A golden fish symbolize her.
All 21 manifestations of Tara Buddha Goddess portray an element or attribute that is necessary for any individual to actualize enlightenment or Buddhahood. Being the sole female Bodhisattva, she represents the capacity of females to attain spiritual enlightenment as equal to their counterpart males. While some schools of Buddhism regard the incarnation of 'male' as being the prerequisite to achieving Buddhahood, Mother Tara's story debunks the claims of 'male' and 'female' being an illusionary construct rather than inherent attributes necessary to attain enlightenment. Today, she is one of the sacred figures in Buddhism and Hinduism. She is wisdom at its optimal level of perfection. Millions of devotees invoke Tara's name in all of her 21 manifestations to praise her and ask for prosperity, protection, guidance, and liberation.