Circle of 21 Taras Shrine, by Shilpa Mehta
( opposite entrance to the bar)

Tara is an ancient Hindu/Buddhist deity. She is a bodhisattva, that is, a being who has achieved enlightenment (like Buddha), but has rejected nirvana and chosen to stay earth-bound in order to help suffering souls everywhere. Enlightenment means nothing to her unless everyone achieves it - a fantastically compassionate viewpoint - it's no wonder then that she is the Goddess of Compassion. She has vowed to always incarnate as a woman, and comes in three main forms - the Red, Green and White, different aspects of her power.

However, I became interested in the legend of the 21 Taras. Quite often when you see a picture of Tara, she is surrounded by lots of little Tara-like figures. These, it turns out, are other aspects of her. Because they are small, they represent day to day difficulties with life - and are there to help, no matter how trivial the problem (sometimes it is these problems that seem the biggest, funnily enough). This is a shrine dedicated to these goddesses, the ones who understand our daily struggles as human beings, and who are quick to help.

The way this shrine works is when you look at it, one Tara will invariably stand out more than the rest. So she is the one that wants to help you - and can even give you a clue where you need to focus your energies. So register which Tara is looking at you - look her up - and send her a sweet prayer so she can help you.

1. NYURMA PALMO: or 'Swift Lady of Glory'. This Tara will bring speedy results by pacifying problems and will help develop a spiritual nature.

2. SARASWATI…governs the arts, music, learning. She will guide you wisely when you create or study, and help you reap the benefits of your endeavours.

3. SERDOG CHEN…is there to help create wealth and a long healthy life (which, when you think about it, is practically the same thing).

4. NAMGYALMA…is another Tara devoted to a wealthy healthy life.

5. KURUKULLA… is all about fulfilling your potential and therefore increasing your power in the world, and with other people.

6. JIGJE CHENMO…is there to tame beings (actual and supernatural) who are creating problems in your immediate environment.

7. TUMMO MIT'HUBMA…protects us during storms - literal, political, emotional or psychic - this goddess will shield us until it passes.

8. ZHAN MIGYELMA…keeps away aggressive people who wish us harm, and protects us if they happen to come into our vicinity.

9. KHAMSUM NAMGYELMA…this Tara springs to action when we need victory, by getting rid of the obstacles in the way of our success.

10. NORGYUN…she removes poverty and brings wealth instead -a Tara to reverse your fortunes.

11. TASHI TAMCHE JINMA…fosters good luck and happiness in the area you live in - useful for when you move house or job.

12. WANGJEDMA…is necessary when we are involved in a fight - showing us how to overcome the opposition.

13. LHAMO DRAPUNGJOM…she is a Tara who dispels the negativity created as a result of our fears.

14. T'HRONYER CHANDZADMA…tackles the fears themselves.

15. RABZHIMA…this Tara purifies us - from our past actions and behaviour - thereby removing any karmic blocks we might have created.

16. BARWAIOD…removes bad magic from our lives - whether that's the influence of a person, a group or a lifestyle - which can act in the same way as a curse.

17. PAGMED NONMA…quite simply, this Tara protects when we are travelling.

18. MAJA CHENMO…defeats poison, whether that's a drug, a sickness or a comment that goes into our bodies - this Tara will prevent the poison from penetrating our hearts.

19. MIP'HAM GYALMO…protects against all illness.

20. RIT'HROD LOGYONMA…overcomes illness once manifest.

21. MARITSE…is the goddess of the dawn - and is often invoked symbolically at the beginning of a journey. She is a natural energiser - so if you feel you feel a bit low, she can restore your strength to help you on your way.

This Tara occupies the central position in my shrine.

Tara means 'star' which is why I placed a little star-like bindi above her head, to pay homage to her actual name. The yellow ribbons on either side have each Tara, with her meaning and mantra, written on them, so she is named, and not anonymous.

So all in all a pretty powerful circle - with goddesses there to help create wealth, health, good conditions, good karma, victory, happy travels, combat fear, illness and bad magic - and all it takes is being receptive to which Tara is giving you the wink today. Remember she gave up nirvana just to help you - so you might as well ask for her assistance ! And if she does help you, don't forget to thank her by winking back.