This exhibition in Mumbai showcases Thangka religious art by Buddhist masters from Bhutan
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This exhibition in Mumbai showcases Thangka religious art by Buddhist masters from Bhutan

Tara - 21 Avatars of the Goddess is an exhibition of Thangka religious art made by artists from Bhutan who depict various forms of goddess Tara who is revered in Buddhist and Hindu mythology.

art and culture Updated: Mar 20, 2018 10:11 IST
Thangka paintings that depict Goddess Tara.

Goddess Tara is worshipped by Hindus as a form of goddess Durga, while Buddhists consider her as a Tantric meditation deity in Vajrayana Buddhism. For Buddhists, she is considered a guide who can help practitioners develop certain qualities and understand teachings about compassion and emptiness.

An exhibition in Mumbai pays homage to the benevolent goddess. Titled Tara - 21 Avatars of Goddess, the exhibition showcases a collection of 23 Thangka paintings made by Buddhist artists from Bhutan that depict legends and stories associated with Tara. Thangkas are religious art which use symbolism and allusion based on Buddhist scriptures. They are important teaching tools and often narrate stories of the Buddha, influential lamas, deities, and bodhisattvas.

The composition of a Thangka is highly geometric.

At the exhibition, each canvas artwork will also be mirrored by a handmade sculpture made of ground mud, and painted in earthy colours. “The composition of a Thangka, as with the majority of Buddhist art, is highly geometric. Arms, legs, eyes, nostrils, ears, and various ritual implements are laid out on a systematic grid of angles and intersecting lines. The process seems methodical, but often requires deep understanding of the symbolism involved to capture the spirit of it,” says co-curator Arjun Sawhney.

The Thangkas in this exhibition have been painted over a year-and-a-half. The process is time-consuming as each painting takes around three months to complete. The paints that are used are derived from minerals, 24-carat gold and natural pigments. “To create these pigments is back-breaking work and to achieve each shade, many elements have to be meticulously mixed. The brushes too are special; for instance- it is believed that the summer hair from a cow’s ear (sic) makes the finest brushes,” explains Sawhney.

The larger message behind the exhibition is to highlight the energy of the divine feminine. “Tara, in Buddhism, is the most powerful female deity and remains very relevant in modern times. Hopefully, the thangkas will work as a symbol for equality and fairness,” says Sawhney.

Tara - 21 Avatars of Goddess will be on display at The Tasting Room, Good Earth, Raghuvanshi Mills, Lower Parel till March 25.

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First Published: Mar 20, 2018 10:10 IST