Tara (Ramayana) (Sanskrit: तारा, Khmer: តារា Tārā, literally "star") in the Hindu epic Ramayana, is the Queen of Kishkindha and wife of the monkey (vanara) King Vali. After being widowed, she becomes the Queen of Sugriva, Vali's brother. Tara is described as the daughter of the monkey physician Sushena in the Ramayana, and in later sources, as an apsara (celestial nymph) who rises from the churning of the milky ocean. She marries Vali and bears him a son named Angada. Tara's intelligence, presence of mind, courage, and devotion to her husband Vali is praised. She is extolled as one of the panchakanya ("five (revered) women"), the recital of whose names is believed to dispel sin.
- The well-known Sanskrit hymn that defines the Panchakanyas (five iconic heroines of Hindu epics) runs:
- Sanskrit transliteration IAST: ahalyā draupadī sītā tārā mandodarī tathā ।
pañcakanyāḥ smarennityaṃ mahāpātakanāśinī॥
- English translation: Ahalya, Draupadi, Sita, Tara and Mandodari
One should forever remember the Panchakanya who are the destroyers of great sins.
- Vaman Shivaram Apte in: The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1970, p. 73.
- Orthodox Hindus, especially Hindu wives, remember the Panchakanya in this daily morning prayer. Their names are extolled and the prayer is pratah smaraniya, prescribed to be recited in the early hours of the morning.
- Mahari dance tradition in which the Oriya verse goes:
Pancha bhuta khiti op tejo maruta Byomo
Pancha sati nirjyasa gyani bodho Gomyo
Ahalya Draupadi Kunti Tara Mandodari totha Pancha kanya...
- Five elements, earth, water, fire, [[wind, ether are in essence the five satis. This the wise know as Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari Five virgins...Ahalya personifies water, Draupadi represents fire, Kunti symbolises mother earth, Tara personifies wind and Mandodari ether. Draupadi’s personality personifies fire, while Sita (whom she incongruously includes in the group instead of Kunti) is the daughter of the earth.
- Pradip Bhattacharya in: Living by Their Own Norms Unique Powers of the Panchkanyas, manushi-india.org
- Valin assured Tara that he would only overthrow Sugriva and not hurt him in any other way. In course of the fight, Valin was mortally wounded by Rama - unjustly though - and, finding his death imminent, made peace with Sugriva. Along with other last minute instructions on how to administer the kingdom, Valin explained to Sugriva that since Tara’s judgment was always sound, he should follow her advice.
- Prabhati Mukherjee in: Hindu Women: Normative Models, Orient Blackswan, 1 January 1994, p. 37.
- The profiles of eleven women who have been clearly referred to as ideals or given enough importance are Ahalya, Draupadi, Tara, Kunti, Mandodari, Sita, Savitri, Parvati, Damayanti, Maitreyi and Shakuntala. Evidently, all of them were not held in the same degree of esteem and reverence. The first five women, known as pancakanya, may be recommended for daily prayers but none of them is regarded as an ideal woman, at least not recommended by anyone for emulation by others. The only exception is Draupadi who was praised by Gandhi for her wisdom and courage.
- Prabhati Mukherjee in: Hindu Women: Normative Models, p. 48.
- In spite of several plus points to their credit – like the wisdom, courage, and sagacity of Draupadi, Tara and Damayanti, the keen and lively interest they evinced in their surroundings and also the part played by the former two in the management of their respective realms, the strong sense of duty, love and loyalty to their respective husbands as shown by Kunti, Mandodari and Shakuntala, the carving for knowledge as expressed by Maitreyi – none of them is a model for Hindu women.
- Prabhati Mukherjee in:"Hindu Women: Normative Models", p. 49.
- Contrarily, epic characters like Draupadi and Tara, whose devotion to their husbands and affinal families was duly noted, participated in activities outside the confines of their homes. On this additional merit, therefore, they should have superseded Sita, Savithri or Parvati as ideal women.
- Prabhati Mukherjee in:"Hindu Women: Normative Models", p. 50.
- Ahalya “for her forbearance is likened to the freshness and active nature of the wind Tara (all the three women of that name, that is, Harishchandra’s queen, Vali’s wife and Brihaspati’s wife who is Chandra’s beloved) is associated “with space and has the quality of intelligence, compassion and large-heartedness; Mandodari with the element of water, turbulent on the surface yet deep and silent in her spiritual quest.
- Thus by the mighty Sire addressed
They all obeyed his high behest,
And thus begot in countless swarms
Brave sons disguised in sylvan forms.
Each God, each sage became a sire,
Each minstrel of the heavenly quire,
Each faun, of children strong and good
Whose feet should roam the hill and wood.
Snakes, bards, and spirits, serpents bold
Had sons too numerous to be told.
Báli, the woodland hosts who led,
High as Mahendra's lofty head,
Was Indra's child. That noblest fire,
The Sun, was great Sugríva's sire,
Tára, the mighty monkey, he
Was offspring of Vrihaspati:
Tára the matchless chieftain, boast
For wisdom of the Vánar host.
Of Gandhamádan brave and bold
The father was the Lord of Gold.
- And the worthy daughters of those far-famed ladies [Ahalyâ, Târâ, Mandodari, Kunti, and [Draupadi] of the Paurânika age, whose names we are to repeat every morning—they can no longer marry more than one husband at a time, even if they want to, and so they turn unchaste.
- ...refers to some real event amongst the aboriginal tribes; namely, the quarrel between an elder and younger brother for the possession of a Raj; and the subsequent alliance of Rama with the younger brother. It is somewhat remarkable that Rama appears to have formed an alliance with the wrong party, for the right of Vali was evidently superior to that of Sugriva; and is especially worthy of note that Rama compassed the death of Vali by an act contrary to all the laws of fair fighting. Again, Rama seems to have tacitly sanctioned the transfer of Tara from Bali to Sugriva, which was directly opposed to modern rule, although in conformity with the rude customs of a barbarous age; and it is remarkable that to this day the marriage of both widows and divorced women is practiced by the Marwars or the aborigines of southern Caranatic, contrary to the deep-rooted prejudice which exists against such unions amongst the Hindus at large.
- James Talboys Wheeler in: The History of India from the Earliest Ages: The Rámáyana and the Brahmanic ..., N. Trübner, 1869, p. 324.
- The five ideal women are role models for all Hindus. They are not perfect but they fulfill their dharma as mothers, sisters, wives, and occasionally leaders in their own right. They are most often listed as Ahalya, Draupadi, Mandodari, Sita and Tara.
The Rámáyaṇ of Vālmīki Translated Into English Verse by Ralph T. H. Griffith: IV, Volume 4
- Then BaIi's soul with rage was fired,
Queen Tara and the dames retired;
And slowly, with a laugh of pride,
The king of Vénars thus replied
'Me, fiend, thou deemest drunk with wine: Unless thy fear the fight decline, Come, meet me in the fray, and test
The spirit of my valiant breast
- In: p. 63.
- Nala and Nila came behind
With Hanuman of lofty mind,
And valiant Tara, last in place,
A leader of the Vénar race.
They gazed on many a tree that showed
The glory of its pendent load,
And brook and limpid rill that made
Sweet murmurs as they seaward strayed.
- In: p. 75.
- They praise thy valour, patience, ruth,
Thy firmness, self-restraint, and truth:
Thy hand prepared for sin's control,
All virtues of a princely soul.
I thought of all these gifts of thine,
And glories of an ancient line,
I set my Tara's tears at naught,
I met Sugriva and we fought.
- In: p. 92.
- I thought of all these gifts of thine, And glories of an ancient line,
I set my Tara's tears at naught,
I met Sugriva and we fought.
O Rama, till this fatal morn
I held that thou wouldst surely scorn
To strike me as I fought my foe
And thought not of a stranger’s blow.
- In: p. 94.
- In vain my Tara reasoned well,
On dull deaf ears her counsel fell.
I scorned her words though sooth and sweet,
And hither rushed my fate to meet.
Ah for the land thou rulest! she
Finds no protection, lord, from thee,
Neglected like some' noble dame
By a vile husband dead to shame.
- In: p. 94.
- Though stayed by Tara's fond recall, By thy dear hand I longed to fall. Against my brother rushed and fought,
And gained the death I long have sought.
Then Ruma thus the prince console'd
From whose clear eyes the mists were rolled.
- In: p. 105.
- Again the hapless Tara wept
As to her husband's side she crept,
And wild with sorrow and dismay
Sat on the ground where Bali lay.
- In: p. 105.
- And hapless Tara sank below
The whelming waters of her woe,
Looked upon Bali's face and fell
Beside him whom she loved so well,
Like a young creeper clinging round -
A tall tree prostrate on the ground.
- In: p. 119.
- Lover of wail beloved by me,
Why hast thou fled away and left
Thy Tara of all hope bereft?
Unwise the father who allows
His child to be a warrior's spouse,
For, hero, see thy consort's fate,
A widow now most desolate.
For ever broken is my pride
- In: p. 121.
- Prepare with Tara and her son
That Bali's rites be duly done.
A store of funeral wood provide
Which wind and sun and time have dried,
And richest sandal fit to grace
The pyre of one of royal race.
With words of comfort soft and kind
Console poor Angad’s troubled mind,
Nor let thy heart be thus cast down,
For thine is now Vanara’s town.
- In: p. 128.
- When Tara' heard the words he said
Within the town he quickly sped,
And brought, on stalwart shoulders laid,
The litter for the rites arrayed,
Framed like a car for Gods, complete
With painted sides and royal seat,
With latticed windows deftly made.
- In: p. 129.
- About thee stands in mournful mood;
A sore-afflicted multitude,
And Tara and thy lords of state
Around their monarch weep and wait.
Arise my lord, with gentle speech,
As was thy wont, dismissing each,
Then in the forest will, we play.
And love shall make our spirits gay,
The Vanar dames raised Tara, drowned
In floods of sorrow, from the ground;
- In: p. 131-32.
- With royal Ruma by his side,
Or Tara yet a dearer bride,
He spent each joyous day and night
In revelry and wild delight,
Like Indra whom the nymphs entice
To taste the joys of Paradise.
- In: p. 148.
- The king, untroubled by alarms,
Held Tara in his amorous arms,
And in the distant bower with her
Heard not each clamorous messenger.
Then, summoned at the lords' behest,
Forth from the city portals pressed,
Each like some elephant or cloud,
The vanaras in a trembling crowd: Fierce warriors all with massive jaws...
With eyes of furry Lakshman viewed.
- In: p. 159.
- Son of Queen Tara, Angad ran
To parley with the godlike man. Still fiery-eyed with rage and hate
Stands Lakshman at the city gate,
And trembling Vénars scarce can fly
Scathed by the lightning of his eye.
Go with thy son, thy kith and kin,
The favour of prince to win
And bow they revered head that so
His fiery wrath may cease to glow.
- In: p. 162.
- A faithful friend untouched by blame.
May look upon another's dame.
He passed within, by Tara pressed,
And by his own impatient breast.
Refulgent there in sun like sheen
Sugriva on his throne was seen.
- In: p. 171-72.
- He ceased: and Tara starry-eyed
Thus to the angry prince replied :
Not to my lord shouldst thou address
A speech so fraught with bitterness:
Not thus reproached my lord should be, And least of all, O Prince, by thee.
He is no thankless coward – no-
With spirit dead to valours glow.
- In: p. 176.
- She ceased: And Laksmana gave assent,
Won by her gentle argument
So Tara's pleading, just and mild,
His softening heart had reconciled.
His altered mood Sugriva saw,
And cast aside the fear and awe,
Like raiment heavy with the rain,
Which on his troubled soul had lain.
Then quickly to the ground he threw
His flowery garland bright of hue.
- In: p. 179.
- Sugriva’s heart swelled high with pride
As to the prince he thus replied:’Come we speed forth without delay':
’Tis mine thy mandate to obey’
Sugriva bade the dames adieu, And Tara and the rest withdrew.
Then at their chieftain's summons came
The Vénars first in rank and fame,
A trusty brave and reverent band,
Meet e'en before a queen to stand.
- In: p. 186.
- Far southward, as his lord decreed,
Wise Hanumén, the Wind-God's seed,
With Angad his swift way pursued,
And Tara's warlike multitude.
Strong Vinata with all his band
Betook him to the eastern land,
And brave Sushen in eager quest
Sped swiftly to the gloomy west.
- In: p. 219.
- But Hanumén, while Tara, best
Of splendid chiefs, his thought expressed,
Perceived that Bali's princely son
A kingdom for himself had won.
His keen eye marked in him combined
The warrior's arm, the ruler’s mind
And every noble gift should grace.
- In: p. 241.
- Go, you bow at Sugreeva’s feet,
And in my name the Monarch greet.
Before the sons of Raghu bend,
And give the greeting that I send
Greet kindly Ruma too, for she
A son's affection claims from me,
And gently calm with friendly care
My mother Tara's wild despair;
Or when she hears her darling's fate
The queen will die disconsolate.'
Thus Angad bade the chiefs adieu.
- In: p. 245.
- Then Ruma his devoted wife
For her dead lord will leave her life,
And Tara, widowed and forlorn,
Will die in anguish, sorrow-worn.
On Angad too the blow will fall
Killing the hope and joy of all.
The ruin of their prince and king
The V6nars' souls with woe will ring.
- In: p. 314.
Ramopakhyana - The Story of Rama in the Mahabharata: A Sanskrit Independent-Study Reader
Peter Scharf in: Ramopakhyana - The Story of Rama in the Mahabharata: A Sanskrit Independent-Study Reader, Routledge, 2 January 2014
- Rama himself makes no effort at conciliation and hears no testimony from Vali. He simply passes judgment and assassinates him for taking Sugriva's wife even though Sugrlva had taken his wife Tara after blocking the mouth of the cave and assuming the throne in Kiskindha.
- In: p. 9-10.
- Sanskrit transliteration IAST: sugrivah prapya kiskindharh nanadaughanibhasvanah;
nasya tanmamrse vaii tam tara pratyasedhayat.
sugrivah prapya kiskindham nanada.
- Purport in English: When we reached Kishkinda, Sugriva roared with a sound like a flood. Valin did not tolerate it from him. Tara checked him.
- In: p. 350.
- Sanskrit transliteration IAST: cintayitva muhurtarh tu tara taradhipaprabha;
patimityabravltprajna srnu sarvam kapisvara.
- Purport in English: Look, you [Tara] knowing the speech of all beings, endowed with intelligence! With whom as support this pseudo-brother of mine arrived?
- In: p. 353.
- Sanskrit transliteration IAST: garhayitva sa kakutstharh papata bhuvi murchitah;
tara dadarsa tam bhumau tarapatimiva cyutam.
- Purport in English: He [Vali] censured the descendant of Kukustha (Rama) and fell on the ground unconscious. Tara saw him fallen on the ground like the lord of the stars.
- In: p. 373.
- When Valin had been slain, Sugriva returned to Kiskindha and to her whose lord had fallen, Tara, whose face was like the lord of the stars.
- In: p. 374.
Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred Myths A Quest for Meaning
Pradip Bhattacharya in: Five Holy Virgins, Five Sacred Myths A Quest for Meaning, Manushi
- Of the five kanyas, none quite measure up to the standard of monogamous chastity, commended so overwhelmingly in our culture. Each has had either an extra-marital relationship or more than one husband. Of this group three – Ahalya, Tara, and Mandodari – belong to the Ramayana, the epic composed by Valmiki, the first seer-poet.
- In the Mahabharata she is called sarvabhutarutajna, able to understand the language of all creatures. In the Kishkindha Kanda of the Ramayana, we see her warning Vali against Sugriva when he comes to challenge Vali for the second time.
- Appearances are deceptive, she [Tara] points out; normally no contestant returns to the field so soon after having been soundly thrashed. Moreover, she says, she has heard that Rama, prince of Ayodhya, has befriended him. She urges Vali to anoint Sugriva as the crown prince and live in peace with him. Vali, in the Mahabharata account, suspects that Tara might be favouring Sugriva and therefore rejects her advice.
- By brushing aside her wise warning, he walks into Rama’s arrow, as he himself admits while he lies dying. He pays a fine tribute to his wife, imploring Ram to ensure that tapasvinim Tara is not insulted by Sugriva and advising Sugriva to follow Tara’s advice unquestioningly. She is skilled, he says, in assessing a situation and deciding what action should be taken; she never judges the merit of anything wrongly.
- After Vali’s fall, Tara not only rallies the fleeing subjects, but also shows great political sagacity. When Hanuman asks her to stop grieving and place her son Angada on the throne, she refuses, since, with his uncle Sugriva alive, this would be inadvisable. Then she rushes to Rama and, in an extremely forceful speech, demands that he kill her too. The strength of her personality in facing up to the prince of Ayodhya is strikingly portrayed. In Krittibas’ Bengali Ramayana, Tara curses Rama to be slain by Vali in a future birth. This is confirmed in the Mahanataka and the Ananda Ramayana where the hunter who causes Krishna’s death is Vali reborn. In several vernacular versions of the epic, Tara also curses Rama that he will not be able to enjoy the company of Sita for long. Tara’s upbraiding elicits Rama’s assurance that Sugriva will protect both her and her son’s rights. To ensure that her son Angada is not deprived of his father’s throne, she becomes her brother-in-law Sugriva’s consort.
- When Lakshmana storms into the inner apartments of Kishkindha, to upbraid Sugriva who has reneged on his promise to track down Sita, it is Tara who is sent by the terrified Sugriva to tackle this rage-incarnate. Approaching Lakshmana with intoxicated, half-closed eyes and unsteady gait, lovely, slim, unashamed, Tara effectively disarms him. She gently reprimands him for being unaware of lust’s overwhelming power that overthrows the most ascetic of sages, whereas Sugriva is a mere vanara (a forest dweller). When he abuses Sugriva, Tara fearlessly intervenes, pointing out that the rebuke is unjustified and details all the efforts already made to gather an army. Once again, as when tendering advice to Vali, Tara displays her superb ability to marshal information and to intervene in a crisis. Thus, she acts as Sugriva’s shield while ensuring that her son Angada becomes the crown prince. In the Mahabharata there is an interesting statement in the Vana Parva that Vali and Sugriva fought over a woman. Surely that woman was the remarkable Tara for, the Ramayana tells us, when attendants report Lakshmana’s arrival, Sugriva is so engrossed in Tara (and not his original wife Ruma) that he remains oblivious to the news.
- In the Balinese dance Kebyar, Rama helps Sugriva get his lover, Dewi Tara, back from his brother, SuVali. In both the Nrisimha Purana and the Mahanataka, Tara is actually Sugriva’s wife whom Vali forcibly took away.
- The Telegu Ranganatha Ramayana has an even more interesting account of Tara’s origins that aligns her more closely with Ahalya, by also depicting her as not born of woman. In this account, Tara is said to have emerged along with the other apsaras during the churning of the ocean for amrita, the nectar of immortality. Tara was then gifted to Vali and Sugriva for the help they had given the gods. Subsequently, Sugriva married Sushena’s daughter Ruma.
- The earliest bearer of the name Tara is the wife of Brihaspati who runs away with his disciple Chandra, causing the Tarakamaya war between the devas and their stepbrothers, the asuras. The name Tara, therefore, carries an aura of internecine strife. Tara, like Helen with Paris, let herself be ruled by her preferences, ignoring social conventions in choosing to leave her ascetic husband for the young and irresistibly handsome Chandra. Even after the war, when the devas and the asuras fight again over possession of her son, it is she who has the last word. As this second war is inconclusive, Brahma himself requests Tara to declare who is the father of her son. Once again, Tara chooses to announce the truth instead of hiding behind the safety of conventions and declares that Chandra, not Brihaspati, is the father. That is how she becomes the ancestress of the Lunar dynasty, the Chandra Vamsa, whose fortunes are the stuff of Vyasa’s epic.
- Tara is the name of the second of the Ten Mahavidyas (the ten Transcendental Wisdoms). Erich Neumann, while discussing the highest form of the feminine archetype, the Goddess of Spiritual Transformation, views Tara as the highest evolution of this universal aspect of consciousness. Her name signifies both ‘star’ and ‘the pupil of the eye’, conveying the idea of a focal point, which suggests that Tara is in some manner a very concentrated essence. We can also interpret her name as coming from the causative form of the verb t.’r, meaning ‘to cross’, ‘to traverse’ or ‘to escape’. Like Draupadi, as we shall see later, Tara is ‘she who ferries across’, ‘she who saves’. Indeed, by her intrepidactions Tara, the wife of Vali, saves the kingdom and her son from ruin.
- Tara and Mandodari are parallels. Both offer sound advice to their husbands who recklessly reject it and suffer the ultimately responsible for the deaths of their husbands. Thereby, they are able to keep their kingdoms strong and prosperous as allies of Ayodhya, and they are able to continue to have a say in governance. Tara and Mandodari can never be described as shadows of such strong personalities as Vali and Ravana.