She, naturally white in complexion, has seven eyes: three on the forehead, two on the palms and another two on the soles. The third eye on the forehead is the eye of foreknowledge and as refuge of the world, the eyes on her hands and feet lead sentient creatures to the isle of blissful liberation. Though the seven eyes of White Tara are not mentioned in the Sadhanamala,but they are ubiquitous in Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia and many other regions. In Nepal she is popularly called Sapta-Lochani Tara or Seven-Eyed Tara.
There are many legends about the origin of white Tara, according to one, Avalokiteshvara once spilled two tears to earth out of pure despair over muddleheaded humanity. Each tear formed a lake in which a lotus grew. When the lotuses opened there was a Tara in the center of each. The tear from his left eye produced the dark-colored Green Tara, the one from his right eye the white Tara. Moreover white Tara is believed to have been incarnate in the Chinese wife of the Buddhist king sRong-tsang-sgam-po, who was of white complexion according to Buddhist accounts.
Thus, the cult of White Tara is very popular in Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia and many other countries. Her popularity and fortune was ever on the increase on the increase as a merciful and benevolent comforter and helper of every soul in torment. She is invoked to save from perils threatening mankind. Tara, kinetic power of compassion (karuna) saves (tarayati) suffering creatures. The ceremonies of Tara are an integral part of Karmpa rituals. Her mandalas are worshipped from third to ninth of every month. On auspicious days there are special services to white Tara. In the daily ritual practices of the most important monasteries, at seven in the morning takes place the meditation on the mandala of Tara, which includes the recitation of her sadhana texts. The Tibetans pray to her for long life, for human life is infinitely precious. The ultimate goal of Buddhahood can be attained by striving in this human body.
In the mantra recitation and meditation, the white syllable Tam (for Tara) appears in the heart, and lights emanate from it. The syllable Tam at the heart suddenly melts and reappears as a white, eight-spoke wheel that in nature is the wisdom symbolized by white Tara. The wheel has five rims of mantra from all the letters and from the wisdom-wheel shrine forth white lights. Devotee's body is filled with the nectar of immortality, and white lights emanate from each pore of the body to form an aura, a span in radius around him. Meditating thus, white radiance accomplishes the activity of pacifying illness, evil spirits, negative karmic forces, mental obscurations and hindrances as well as the completion of the natural span of life.
In the present thangka Goddess White Tara is seated in vajraparyankasana on the Lotus throne. Her right hand is in the varada mudra of charity and the left holding a stem of full-blown lotus flower. She is wearing exquisitely designed crown, earrings, necklaces, armlets, anklets, waistband etc. Her silk robes and scarves are beautifully decorated with floral motifs. There is a mandorla and halo behind her body and head, respectively.
On the top center, Amitabha Buddha is seated, Green Tara on upper left corner and an image of white Tara on upper right corner. At the bottom, Arapachana Manjushri is seated in the left corner, while wrathful Vajrapani in the right corner. The bottom center is filled with peaceful offerings. All the figures are brilliantly drawn. The thangka is suitable for esoteric practices and sadhana.
A. Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Tokyo, 1962
Ben Meulenbeld, Buddhist Symbolism in Tibetan Thangka, Holland, 2001
Marylin M. Rhie & Robert A.F. Thurman, Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, New York, 1999
Stephen Beyer, The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet, Berkely, 1973
This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)".