I do refer to her as Aadi Maa because she had brought Aadieshwar Shiva to consciousness after he had become unconscious due to consuming of halahal from samudra manthan.
Maa Tara has both Buddhist and Hindu references.
She is also a Mahavidya.
"Indeed, this celestial Ghora (Terible) Saraswati with her path of Gold, the destroyer of the Obstruction (Vritra, the granthis), claims our praise!" - Rig Veda Samhita, VI.68.7
Tara is a wrathful form of the Goddess Saraswati. She represents Saraswati as the Supreme Nadi that takes us beyond into the Soma Chakra up Sushumna, and thus she is called the Tara (Saviouress).
In the Purans we encounter a Tara Devi. She maybe the same Maa tara or another representation of her immense energy.
She is said to have been consort with both Brihaspati (Lord of Speech, dwelling in the Muladhara as Kundalini) and the Moon (Soma, the Sahasrarapadma Chakra that Kundalini unites with when fully awakened).
Their son, the first mortal, was called Budha ('Intellect'), and was an avatar of Vishnu and the Lord of Planet Mercury.
The greatest modern Seer of Tara was the great Tantric Vamaksepa (known also as Vama, Vamadeva, Bamakhepa etc.). A Vamamargi (Left-hand Tantric), he was a Para-bhakta like Chaitanya and had many mystic powers.
Amongst his devotees and disciples who received his grace and teachings, was the Author and Mystic of Bengal and great Composer on Hindu Literature - Jadunath Sinha.
One can but beleive that Tara through the grace of Vamaksepa, empowered Jadunath to write on Hindu Philosophy for the benefit of the world.
Vamaksepa often saw the Goddess Tara in the flames of Agni (Fire). He was one of few Rishis that beheld this sacred forms of the Goddess in Fire, as did the Rishis of Vedic times, as in Durgasukta, Mundakopanishad and Agni-Durga mantra by Kashyapa in the Rig Veda.
Verily, Vamaksepa was a Vedic Rishi. Tara is consort of Brihaspati the Guru of the Gods, who in Rig Veda is worshipped in Fire as Lord of Speech and Mantra - as Brahmanaspati, Narashamsa, the Purohit (Priest) form of Agni etc.
Agni in the same hymn takes the form of the Son of Power or Shavasi (or Shakti, verse 10) and other times as a youth. This relates to the later ideas of Tara as the Mother of her husband Akshobhya or Brihaspati - as the image at Tarapith of Akshobhya sucking on her breast, shows. Mandala V, also portrays such an imagery with Agni the son.
There is another story relating to this event of playing the role of mother of her husband by suckling him. After consuming halahal from samudra manthan, Shiva fell unconscious. Tara, the consort of Shiva took him in her lap and fed him with her breast milk, as it could only be the divine milk that could counteract the poison of halahal.
This hymn by Bharadvaja obviously shows Agni in Brihaspati form, as it commences with Agni the Inventor of the mantra, and also the Sage of mankind (verse 8).
The son of Brihaspati and Tara, is a great Rig Vedic Rishi of the Sixth Mandala, Bharadvaja. One hymn of his (VI.1.5) extols Agni as the Father and Mother in the form of the Saviour and Deliverer of Mortals forever, the Taraka-shakti, which is the basis of Tara and Akshobhya-Tar or Brihaspati in later times. [This is also basis of Tara and Aksbhobhya Boddhisattvas as helpers of mortals in Buddhist mythology, from this famed Vedic verse!].
Moreover, the wrathful form of Saraswati (VI.68), esp. verse 7, relates to Tara as wrathful and Vritraghni (Vritra-slaying) Saraswati - thus her form as Tara or Ugra-Saraswati. It calls her Ghora (wrathful or terrible). Also the hymn to Bharadvaja's father Brihaspati is also wrathful in tone (VI.73) - all of these hymns which are the basis of Tara, are from Bharadvaja's Sixth Mandala!
Bharadvaja also states that through love and grace of Agni (Brihaspati or Tara, again who is both Mother - Tara and Father, Brihaspati in VI.1.5), one gains much wealth and by serving him, one gains many boons. This is basis of Tara-bhakti.
Brihaspati himself is the son of Rishi Angirasa (RV.VI.73.1). Rig Veda states that the first Angirasa Rishi was actually Agni himself in the form of the 'auspicious friend' (shiva sakha) to the Gods - thus a form of Lord Shiva himself (RV.I.31.1).
This is the origin of Brihaspati as the avatar of Lord Shiva - and the Akshobhya or Nilakantha form itself is noted in the Vedas:
" We offer salutations to the blue-necked one (Nilagriva) , he who has a thousand eyes and is the granter of desires. We offer salutations to those who are his followers!" - Krishna Yajur Veda Samhita, IV.5.1 (Sri Rudram.I.9)
The same text also calls Shiva as Tara, also.
Tara of the cremation ground (samashana-Tara) is connected to Rudra-Agni forms as the great Deliverer in forms that haunt the cremation grounds. As such, Shiva as Medhapati (Lord of offerings) and Gathapati (ie. Brihaspati) as Rudra the wrathful are noted in Rig Veda(I.43.4-5). This is connected with Rudra as the Taraka-devata through Mahamrityunjaya (Great death mantra) of Vasishtha in Rig Veda (VII.59.12) - taking us beyond death.
Interestingly - Vasishtha later becomes one of Tara's main Seers in Tantra!
Thus, we can see Vamaksepa has a strong Vedic connection when he envisions her in Fire. As her son, he is the great avatar of Shiva, Akshobhya himself or the great Rishi Bharadvaja, the son of Tara and Brihaspati.
Amongst the Kirata peoples of ancient China (Mahachina), that is, remote parts of Nepal and Tibet-Ladhak regions into NE India as Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, her Shaman-practices arose from the fallen aspects of Vedic and became part of their Buddhism, when the likes of Padmasambava taught Tara-sadhana into these regions. Hence why it survived.
Yet, the home of Tara-worship and Mahachinachara is said to be Manasa-puja (mental worship). In the Puranas she guards the Manasa-sarovar (Lake of the Mind), which is Geographically located in Mahachina or Tibet, land of Buddhistic practices. Thus, Rishi Vasishtha who learnt this, actually travelled to the Lake of the Mind, and the Mahachina idea, was only a geographical metaphor. The Saraswati also originates from the Himalayas.
Kiratas are also Hunters. They are symbolically the Marut-forms of or followers of Tara as the hunters and slayers of demons, and thus Mahachina is her abode, as also it is Shiva's abode (on Mt. Meru or Kailasha).Saraswati is also Goddess of the Mind, as the Goddess of Intellect, as her Gayatri mantra shows. Infact, Gayatri itself is also the basis of Tara form of Saraswati.
Gayatri means literally, "The song (gaya) that saves (tri)".
It connects tara to Saraswati as both Mantra or Song and also the Saviouress. As noted above, we have already Vedic images of Saraswati the wrathful demon-slaying warrioress in the hymns of Bharadvaja.
Tara is quite well known to the West through Her Tibetan manifestations, but some are unaware of the important position She occupies in the Hindu tantrik pantheon. She is the second of the ten Mahavidyas.
The major sources used on this page are an important Kaula tantra called Brihad Nila Tantra (see below) and the Tararahasya (Secrets of Tara) of Brahmananda Giri.
The first deals with the exposition of Nila Sarasvati -- the Sapphire Blue Sarasvati. Sarasvati is the Brahma-Shakti, or spouse of the Supreme Deity in his Creative aspect.
Some have attempted to separate the Hindu Tara from the Tibetan Tara, but there is little doubt that She is the same Devi.
This is shown in a reference to Tara in the Hindu Tantrarajatantra, where Her mantra is given as Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha -- identical to the Tibetan version.
Here Tara takes her form as Kurukulla.
The various other forms are given in Brihad Nila Tantra and Devirahasya, under the names Nilasarasvati, Aniruddha Sarasvati, Ugra Tara, Tarini. Nilasarasvati gives as the fruit of worshipping Her poesy and eloquence. This, aside from clearly relating Nilasarasvati to White Sarasvati, also points to this Goddess being the Shakti of the Letters of the Alphabet, the Matrika Shakti.
She has an important role in Tantrik cosmology because mantra, words, music are considered to be the very source of the cosmos. As Matrika Shakti She deludes the entire human race with Her Maya of letters, and words. This has been expressed in a Tantrik form, but, practically speaking, it is sufficient to say that much hypnosis (Maya) comes about via the medium of words. Millions of people have lost their lives through this power. Thus Her power and place in the Tantrik pantheon is quite justified, and Her mantra is described as a Siddha-Vidya, the cause of Maya and Englamouring. The image here is the bija mantra of Sarasvati, Aim.
In India, Tara pith is a place where Tara is worshipped as Aadi Maa.Some 300 miles from Calcutta, Tarapith is situated on the banks of the north flowing Dwarka river, in Birbhum, in West Bengal. The temple that was built by Vasistha got buried under the earth with the passage of time. Tarapith as it stands today, was built by Joybroto, a merchant, who received directions from Tara Maa in his sleep to unearth the 'brahmashila', or the sacred stone, to set it up as a shrine in a proper place. Tara Maa of Tarapith, another form of Kali, has two hands, is garlanded with snakes, is adorned in sacred threads, and has Shiva lying in her left lap sucking her breast.
The main image is hid (aabrita) from general darshan and an idol of Tara Maa is placed infront of it to conceal the original image. The original image is brought out only on special days for darshan by eager devotees. This concealment was done by a devotee on receiving a divine message that the original image maynot be understood by common man and thus should be concealed.