Tara has 21 ultimate emanations according to the mantra of the Buddha Samantabhadra called “Twenty-One Praises of Tara”.
21 Tara with 21 specific colors serves to a specific function. There are different styles and designs of thangka paintings that represent the 21 manifestations of Tara based on distinct lineages and practices, in which forms, colors, ritual objects and even names or functions can vary.
The most common thangka art of Twenty-one Taras present Green Tara in the center of the composition but in some thangkas the central position can be occupied by Red Tara or White Tara.
1) Pravīra-Tara (Rab tu dpa’ ba’i Sgrol ma)
Tara Swift and Heroic – Out of emptiness appears a dharmodaya. In its center is OṂ on a yellow lotus and moon. It transforms into Tara the Heroine, red and radiating masses of fire. She has one face and eight arms. The first pair of hands, joined at the crown, hold vajra and bell. The second pair hold bow and arrow. The third hold wheel and conch and the fourth hold sword and noose. She appears peaceful and sits in the cross-legged position. She is adorned with silks and jewel ornaments and has a backrest of moonlight.
She is crowned with Vairocana. Imagine at the heart a moon disk. On it, OṂ surrounded by the mantra-garland. Repeat OṂ TĀRE TUTTĀRE TURE SVAHA. The other practices are similar. Their self-generation, front-generation and permission rituals being identical except for the differences in seed syllables, bodily forms and lords of the type.
2) Candrakānti-Tara (Dkar mo zla mdangs kyi Sgrol ma)
Tara White as Autumn Moon – On a lotus and moon, from TĀ appears White Tara with three faces, white, blue and yellow, and twelve arms. The first pair of hands are in the contemplative gesture. The other right hands hold khaṭvāṅga, wheel, jewel, vajra and garland of flowers. The other left hands hold water-jug, utpala, bell, flask and book. The lord of the type is Amithāba.
3) Kanka-varṇa-Tara (Gsum pa gser mdog can gyi Sgrol ma)
Golden colored Tara - On a lotus and moon, from RE appears Yellow Tara with one face and ten arms. Her right hands hold rosary, sword, arrow, vajra and staff. Her left hands hold silk ribbon, noose, lotus, bell and bow. The lord of the type is Ratnasambhava.
4) Uṣṇīṣa-vijaya-Tara (Gtsug tor rnam rgyal ma’i Sgrol ma)
Tara the Victorious Uṣṇīṣa - On a lotus and moon, from TUT appears Yellow Tara with one face and four arms. Her right hands in the wish-granting gesture and holding a rosary. Her left hands hold water-jug and club. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi.
5) Hūṃ-svara-nādinī-Tara (Hūṃ sgra sgrog pa’i Sgrol ma)
Tara Proclaiming the Sound of HŪṂ - On a moon, from TĀ appears Yellow Tara with one face and two arms. Her right hand giving protection, her left hand holding a yellow lotus. The lord of the type is Amithāba.
6) Trai-lokya-vijaya-Tara (‘Jig rten gsum rgyal Sgrol ma)
Tara Victorious over the Three Worlds - On a red lotus and sun, from RE appears Red Tara with one face and four arms. Her right hands hold vajra and sword. Her left hands are in the threatening gesture and hold a noose. The lord of the type is Amithāba.
7) Vādi-pramardani-Tara (Rgol ba ‘joms pa’i Sgrol ma)
Tara Crushing Adversaries - On a yellow lotus and sun, from TU appears Black Tara with one face and four arms, wearing yellow garments, fierce, with upward streaming hair. Her right hands hold wheel and sword. Her left hands are in the threatening gesture and hold a lotus with vajra upon it. The lord of the type is Ratnasambhava.
8) Vaśitottama-da-Tara (Dbang mchog ster ba’i Sgrol ma)
Tara who bestows supreme powers – On a stacked seat of red lotus, moon and sea-monster, from RE appears Yellow Tara with one face and four arms. The first pair of hands hold a branch of an aśoka tree and a lotus. The other pair hold a jewel with the wish-granting gesture and a flask. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi.
Khadiravaṇi-Tara (Seng ldeng nag kyi Sgrol ma)
Tara of the Sandalwood-Forest. She is the central or principal Tara according to Sūrya-gupta and not counted among the twenty-one, which are rather considered her emanations. She is identical to the very first Tara [in this group] except for being accompanied by her two attendants Mārīcī and Ekajaṭā. Mārīcī appears on her right from MAṂ. She is yellow and holds a vajra and the branch of an aśoka tree and is clothed in the attire of a peaceful deity. On Tara’s left appears, from HŪṂ, black Ekajaṭā. She holds knife and a skull filled with blood. She has three eyes and wears tiger- and elephant-skins and appears wrathfully.
9) Vara-da-Tara (Mchog stsol ba’i Sgrol ma); Tara Granter of Boons
On a red lotus and moon, from SVA appears Red Tara with four arms. The first pair of hands hold vajra and bell with the gesture of joy on the crown of the head. The second right is snapping fingers in a dancing movement while the second left holds the branch of an aśoka tree, raining down jewels on beings. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi.
10) Śoka-vinodana-Tara (Mya ngan sel ba’i Sgrol ma)
Tara Dispeller of Misery - On a red lotus and moon, from SA appears Red Tara with four arms. The first pair of hands are on the crown of the head with palms folded. The second pair hold a sword and the branch of an aśoka tree with red blossoms. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi.
11) Jagad-ākarṣana-Tara (‘Gro ba’i ‘gugs pa’am phongs pa sel ba’i Sgrol ma)
Tara Summoner of Beings or Dispeller of Misfortune – On a lotus and sun seat, from HĀ appears Black Tara, very fierce. Her right hand holds a hook that summons the eight planets, her left a hook that dispels misfortune. She is in the āliḍha posture. The lord of the type is Ratnasambhava.
12) Maṇgalāvabhasa-Tara (Bkra shis snang ba’i Sgrol ma):Tara Light of Fortune
On a double lotus and moon, from A appears Yellow Tara with one face and eight arms. The right hands hold trident, hook, vajra and sword. The left hands hold a jewel at the heart, hook, club and flask. The lord of the type is Vairocana.
13) Paripācana-Tara (Yongs su smin mdzad Sgrol ma)
Tara the Ripener - On a lotus and sun, from BRUṂ appears Red Tara, very fierce. Her first right hand holds a sword, the second an arrow. Her first left hand holds a wheel, the second one a bow. She is in the āliḍha posture. The lord of the type is Amithāba.
14) Calad-bhṛkuṭī-Tara ()Khro gnyer gyo ba’i Sgrol ma)
Frown Shaking Tara – On an orange lotus, sun and human corpse seat, from AT appears Blue Tara with three faces, black, white and red. They frown and devour human intestines in their mouths. She has six arms. Her right hands hold sword, hook and club. The left ones hold skull, noose and Brahmā’s heads. She wears a crown and necklace of human heads and is adorned with tiger-skin and snakes. Outside, in the eight directions, shoots of jewel-trees grow. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi.
15) Mahā-śānti-Tara (Zhi ba chen mo’am dge legs ster ba’i Sgrol ma)
Tara the Greatly Peaceful or Giver of Good – On a white lotus, from ṆI appears White Tara. Her three right hands hold rosary, wish-granting gesture and club. Her three left hands hold lotus, water-jug and book. In the [corresponding] praise it is explained that the book rests on a lotus. The lord of the type is Amithāba.
16) Saṅga-nāśani-Tara (Chags pa ‘joms pa’i Sgrol ma)
Tara the Destroyer of Attachment – On an orange lotus and sun, from E appears Red Tara. Her right hand holds a trident at the heart, the left one, with forefinger raised, a tree with blossoms and fruit. She sits in the sattva posture. The lord of the type is Akṣobya. If one were to say that in the praise it says “She liberates with HŪṂ”, so she should appear from HŪṂ, that would be all right. [A handwritten note in the margin says that she has three eyes.]
17) Sukha-siddhi-Tara (Bde ba sgrub pa’i Sgrol ma)
Tara the Accomplisher of Bliss - On a white lotus and sun, from SA appears Orange Tara. Her two hands holding the orb of the moon at her heart. She sits in the sattva posture. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi. She too can be generated from HŪṂ.
18) Prapuṣṭi-Tara (Rab tu rgyas pa’i Sgrol ma)
Tara the All-Increasing – On a white lotus with moon and goose, from GI appears white Tara with four arms. The first pair of hands is joined at the crown and hold hooks. The second pair hold the wish-granting gesture and a lotus with a book. She sits in the sattva posture. The lord of the type is Amithāba.
19) Duḥka-dahana-Tara (Sdug bsngal bsreg ba’i Sgrol ma)
Tara Burner of Suffering – On a white lotus and moon, from JA appears White Tara. Her two hands hold a furnace at the heart. She sits in the sattva posture, with her right leg slightly extended. The lord of the type is Vairocana.
20) Siddhi-saṃbhava-Tara (Dngos grub byung ba’i Sgrol ma)
Tara Source of Attainments – On a red lotus and moon, from CA appears Orange Tara. Her two hands hold a golden flask at the heart. She sits in the sattva posture. The lord of the type is Amoghasiddhi.
21) Pari-pūraṇa-Tara (Yongs rdzogs byed pa’i Sgrol ma)
Tara the Perfecter – From HA appears a most excellent white bull, on top of which are lotus and moon. On this, from PHAṬ appears White Tara with three eyes, slightly wrathful. Her right hand holds a trident, the left one a pearl garland. She sits in the ardha posture, with right leg extended, and wears a tiger-skin as a lower garment. The lord of the type is Ratnasambhava.
Praises to the 21 Taras
Om I prostrate to the noble transcendent liberator!
1. Homage! Tara, swift, heroic!
Eyes like lightning instantaneous!
Sprung from op’ning stamens of the
Lord of three world’s tear-born lotus!
2. Homage! She whose face combines a
Hundred autumn moons at fullest!
Blazing with light rays resplendent
As a thousand star collection!
3. Homage! Golden-blue one, lotus
Water born, in hand adorned!
Giving, effort, calm, austerities,
Patience, meditation her sphere!
4. Homage! Crown of tathagatas,
Actions triumph without limit
Relied on by conquerors’ children,
Having reached ev’ry perfection!
5. Homage! Filling with TUTTARE,
HUM, desire, direction, and space!
Trampling with her feet the seven worlds,
Able to draw forth all beings!
6. Homage! Worshipped by the all-lords,
Shakra, Agni, Brahma, Marut!
Honored by the hosts of spirits,
Corpse-raisers, gandharvas, yakshas!
7. Homage! With Her TRAD and PHAT sounds
Destroying foes’ magic diagrams!
Her feet pressing, left out, right in,
Blazing in a raging fire-blaze!
8. Homage! TURE, very dreadful!
Destroyer of Mara’s champion(s)!
She with frowning lotus visage
Who is slayer of all enemies!
9. Homage! At the heart her fingers,
Adorn her with Three Jewel mudra!
Light-ray masses all excited!
All directions’ wheels adorn her!
10. Homage! She so joyous, radiant,
Crown emitting garlands of light!
Mirthful, laughing with TUTTARE,
Subjugating maras, devas!
11. Homage! She able to summon
All earth-guardians’ assembly!
Shaking, frowning, with her HUM sign
Saving from every misfortune!
12. Homage! Crown adorned with crescent
Moon, all ornaments most shining!
Amitabha in her hair-knot
Sending out much light eternal!
13. Homage! She ’mid wreath ablaze like
Eon-ending fire abiding!
Right stretched, left bent, joy surrounds you
Troops of enemies destroying!
14. Homage! She who strikes the ground with
Her palm, and with her foot beats it!
Scowling, with the letter HUM the
Seven levels she does conquer!
15. Homage! Happy, virtuous, peaceful!
She whose field is peace, nirvana!
She endowed with OM and SOHA,
Destroyer of the great evil!
16. Homage! She with joy surrounded
Tearing foes’ bodies asunder,
Frees with HUM and knowledge mantra,
Arrangement of the ten letters!
17. Homage! TURE! With seed letter
Of the shape of syllable HUM!
By foot stamping shakes the three worlds,
Meru, Mandara, and Vindhya!
18. Homage! Holding in her hand the
Hare-marked moon of deva-lake form!
With twice spoken TARA and PHAT,
Totally dispelling poison!
19. Homage! She whom gods and their kings,
And the kinnaras do honor!
Armored in all joyful splendor,
She dispels bad dreams and conflicts!
20. Homage! She whose two eyes bright with
Radiance of sun and full moon!
With twice HARA and TUTTARE
She dispels severe contagion!
21. Homage! Full of liberating
Pow’r by the set of three natures!
Destroys hosts of spirits, yakshas,
And raised corpses! Supreme! TURE!
These praises with the root mantras
And prostrations thus are twenty-one!
Prayer of the Benefits
Whoever is endowed with devotion for the goddess and recites this with supreme faith,
Remembering it at dawn upon waking and in the evenings,
Will be granted all fearlessness, will perfectly pacify all negativities,
And will eliminate all unfortunate migrations.
The multitudes of conquerors will quickly grant initiation:
Thus, endowed with this greatness, one will eventually reach the state of a buddha.
If affected by the most terrible poison,
Whether ingested, drunk, or from a living being,
Just by remembering will one be thoroughly cleansed.
If this prayer is recited two, three, or seven times,
It will pacify all the sufferings of torments
Caused by spirits, fevers, and poisons, and by other beings as well.
If you wish for a child, you will get a child;
If you wish for wealth, you will receive wealth.
All your wishes will be fulfilled
And all obstacles pacified.