|| kāḷī tārā mahāvidyā śōḍaśī bhuvanēśvarī
bhairavī chinnamastā ca vidyā dhūmavatī tadhā
bagalā siddha vidyā ca mātaṅgī kamalātmikā
ētā daśa mahāvidyā siddha vidyā prakīrtitā ||
Among the Dasa Maha Vidyas (Ten Great Goddesses), we first learned about Kali Vidya, which is the foremost of the Siddha Vidyas. Let us now learn about the second vidya which is Tara Vidya. The Sakti or the power which bestows salvation is Tara. What do we need salvation from? We need salvation from many hardships such as troubles, misery, ignorance, poverty, dangers, fears, stupidity, etc; and the Sakti or power that delivers us from all such hardships is Tara Devi.
The one source of supreme power that is being worshipped in various forms throughout the world is none other than goddess Tara Devi. It is so because everyone wishes and implores god to deliver them from hardships and grant them happiness. Therefore, knowingly or unknowingly everyone is worshipping this goddess. But one can reach the goal without delay if one learns this vidya (knowledge) through initiation and practices it. The goddess Tara is not different from goddess Kali. She is one of the many forms of Jaganmata (Supreme Mother). Tantras say that it is wrong to think of these goddesses as different entities. In reality, they are all various forms of the one supreme power, Adya Sakti.
With different variations in its mantras, this vidya exists as Tara, Ekajata, Ugra Tara and Nila Saraswati. Importantly, due to the grace of this goddess one can obtain the power to compose poetry, undivided attention, and great knowledge. Usually, one who is interested in being a scholar will be initiated into Tara mantra. Due to the grace of goddess Tara Devi, one obtains the power to talk fluently, excellent power to remember and gain purity of speech. Unlike other practices of Hinduism, Tara Vidya spread into Buddhism and Jainism. Goddess Tara is worshiped in Buddhism and Jainism also as the presiding deity of knowledge and compassion and as the epitome of kindness who delivers from hardships.
The appearance of goddess Tara sometimes resembles goddess Saraswati. This is the reason why some of us believe that both are one. Among the Tara mantras, there are few region-specific mantras. They seem like Sabara (forest) mantras and don’t sound like Sanskrit mantras. However, they are more powerful than the Sanskrit mantras. The forest mantras are associated with non-vedic practices. That is why traditionalists do not meddle with them.
A practitioner of Tara can attain the four Purusharthas (ultimate aims of human life) called Dharma (right living), Artha (money), Kama (fulfilment of passions) and Moksha (ultimate liberation) very quickly. To cross the worldly life and attain salvation, Tara sadhana (practice) gives quick results. Goddess Tara can grant both materialistic and spiritual benefits. This goddess bestows grace on householders and monks equally. She can get rid of worldly troubles for the householders. She can destroy the six inner enemies viz,. lust, anger, greed, pride, jealousy, infatuation and grant salvation to monks very easily.
In Astrology, this goddess is known to be the presiding deity of planet Mercury. Suited to this belief her stature is short with somewhat big stomach, always pleasant and smiling. Astrologers believe that the planet Mercury also has a similar form. It is believed in Buddhism, that the idol that is being worshipped as goddess Kanaka Durga at Vijayawada is goddess Tara Devi herself. When Hiuen Tsang visited our country, he practiced Tantric Buddhism at Dharani Kota in Amaravathi. He said that when he was on his way he had a vision of a powerful light at the Indrakeeladri hill in Vijayawada. He thought that this was the vision of goddess Tara in her light form. In Tibetan Tantra, goddess Tara Devi is believed to be a girl of sixteen years. This belief is close to the idea of Sodasi of Hindu Tantra. Just as the sixteen phases of moon shine bright and give out compassionate light to the world, similarly, it is believed that goddess Tara protects us by destroying our hardships with the healing light of her kind heart.
When one is caught between two situations and is unable to reach a conclusion the worship of goddess Tara provides a resolution and also removes all the obstacles in the path. The practitioners of Tara experience the disappearance of their troubles in a trice by the grace of Goddess Tara. Goddess Tara’s main quality is to deliver from troubles. Adepts say that she is green in color in some forms and blue in some other forms.
In reality, she can appear to a sadhaka in any form. She can take any form from a pleasing to a ferocious one. The forms of Ugra Tara, Smasana Tara are very fierce forms. Sadhakas of feeble heart cannot withstand those visions.
Goddess Tara Devi is considered as the one who gave birth to Trimurti's, the three gods. The form of this goddess is very pleasing, compassionate and kind. Since she knows the hardships human beings go through, she is ever ready to help them with her kind heart when they pray for her grace. In Tantras there is a story where it is said that Jaganmata (Supreme Mother) took the form of Tara and breastfed Lord Siva to alleviate his pain when he swallowed poison. Because he drank that nectar of her breast milk he was able to withstand and stay alive from the horrific effect of poison. It is believed in Buddhism that all the prophets who come to deliver the world are her children. She is the epitome of Karuna or Compassion.
Tara is the Sakti who got migrated from Hindu Tantras to Buddhist Tantras and attained highest position over there. She is being worshiped in Nepal, Tibet, and Assam and in Himalayan ranges even till today. Even though all our treatises on Tantra are destroyed, most of them are preserved in Tibet. In 1000 AD, Atisa Dipamkara migrated to Tibet from Bengal and became the first Tantra guru who introduced Tara Vidya to Tibetans.
Goddess Tara appeared to him in a dream and said, “You will lose some years from your life by going to Tibet but millions of people will benefit and gain knowledge. What do you want to do?” He then replied that he would like to give up some years of his life to help mankind. He wanted to become an instrument in providing salvation to millions and translated precious treatises on Tantra into the Tibetan language. The Tantra books that were destroyed by fire and Islamic onslaughts in our country are safely preserved in Tibet. There is an effort underway to translate them from the Tibetan language back to Sanskrit by some.
In the Himalayan regions, it is very common to see the cruel animals that appear on the path go away when one thinks of goddess Tara. We do not believe in such incidents but there are many instances where goddess Tara showered her grace on the village people of Himalayan regions who implored her with innocence and reverence in their hearts. In Buddhism, goddess Tara is looked upon as the Mother of all Buddhas. Even after attaining the state of Buddhahood they do not care for their Nirvana but strive for the betterment of the world with compassion. So the compassion the Buddhas have is thought to be the nature of goddess Tara.
This is the reason why goddess Tara is seated next to the idol of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. The compassion he has in his heart for the sentient beings is nothing but goddess Tara. In our country, we can find goddess Tara temples in Bengal, Assam, Himalayan regions and also in Nepal and Tibet.
In the Sri Vidya tradition, goddess Tara is worshipped as Tarini - one of the deities of the nine enclosures of Sri Chakra.
All rights reserved. This article has been translated by Padmaja A, which was originally posted in teluguyogi.net on August 9, 2009. The content or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher.