Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 28 September 2014





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The controversial bronze statue

Goddess Tara

The connoisseur of art and philosopher Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy has said, "In the absence of other evidence, the identification of this statue as Pattini may be provisionally accepted."

Archaeologist Vincent Smith has also confirmed that it is a statue of Pattini.

But the British Museum, having given it pride of place among the Asian statues continues to mislead the visitors by labelling it as Goddess Tara.

In 2006 A.D. the keeper of the British Museum J. Robert Knox said, "This statue has been identified exclusively as Tara but I am unable to tell with any accuracy when the first use of the name Tara occurred at the British Museum. That information is just not available."

Armed with more information, my effort is to re-confirm that it is a statue of Pattini and not of Tara.

The only documented reference regarding this statue is the correspondence of Lady Brownrigg with the British Museum which says that the statue concerned was found on the eastern coast, north of Batticaloa.


According to Siva Subramaniyam in the publication of Hindu Conference 2002, on Kannagi (Pattini) in the East Coast, it is said that after the conquest of Jaffna by the Portuguese, seven statues of Kannagi Amma (Pattini) had been brought by boat to Batticaloa and in the same publication it states that two Chettipaaliyam families also have brought idols of Kannagi from Kandarodai in Jaffna to Batticaloa. Also he quotes Mattakalapu Sarithiram saying that on the request of the local chiefs of Batticaloa, King Wimaladharmasuriya of Kandy had stationed Malay soldiers to protect the Kannagi worship of the people of Batticaloa.

In addition to the destruction of Kovils by the Portuguese during medieval history, three cyclones and five major floods recorded within 140 years could also have destroyed Kannagi-Amma kovils in Batticaloa.

Goddess Pattini

The only historical and archaeological evidence of Tara is at Dorawaka off the Warakapola - Anguruwella road in Sabaragamuwa and never around Batticaloa.


The belief among Buddhists in Sri Lanka is that Pattini is aspiring to be a future Buddha one day after being born a man, until such time she remains a-sexual. Also in one of the previous births of Pattini she received divine assurance from previous Buddha Kausanda, that she will one day achieve Buddhahood. If such is the case she does not need any jewellery on her ears or around the neck. An a-sexual identity does not need to attract a male counterpart, so could be depicted without any of these jewellery as in the statue in the British Museum.

Whereas Tara, the consort of Avalokathiswara Natha should always be adorned with all types of ornaments where her sacred gem is the diamond. None of the Sadanas on Tara ever speaks of Tara are without jewellery around her neck and on the ears.

When Maha Brahma offered to Tara, the choice of being born a man, Tara had declined the offer and elected to remain in her womanly form and be the consort to Avalokathiswara, the Maithree Buddha of time yet to come. Unlike the guided statue at the British Museum, Tara statues should be full of jewellery.

As the guilded statue does not adorn any jewellery it could be concluded that it is a statue of Pattini exclusively.

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