Golden Tara

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The Golden Tara at the collections of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago

The Golden Tara is a 1.79 kilogram, 21-karat Majapahit period gold image of a Hindu goddess Tara discovered in Esperanza, Agusan, Philippines in 1918. When it was purchased by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, US through controversial phases, it was renamed Agusan Gold Image, a moved rejected by Filipino scholars.

H. Otley Beyer believed that the image was that of a Hindu Sivaite goddess, but with the religiously important hand signals improperly copied by local workmen. Thus it suggests that Hinduism was already in the Philippines before Ferdinand Magellan arrived, but also suggests that the early Filipinos had an imperfect version of Hinduism adopted from the Majapahit Empire. Natives back then were not converted into Hinduism, rather, they absorbed traditions in Hinduism while retaining their own indigenous Anitist religions.

A study of this image was made by F. D. K. Bosch, of Batavia, in 1920, who came to the conclusion that it was made by local workmen in Mindanao, copying a Nganjuk image of the early Majapahit period - except that the local artist overlooked the distinguishing attributes held in the hand. It probably had some connection with the Javanese miners who are known to have been mining gold in the Agusan-Surigao area in the middle or late 14th century. The image is apparently that of a Sivaite goddess, and fits in well with the name "Butuan" (signifying "phallus").

— H. Otley Beyer, 1947[1]

History[edit]

The Golden Tara was discovered in 1918 by a Manobo woman named Bilay Campos. It was stolen from a hidden chest inside her traditional Manobo house. The tribe of Manobo to which Campos belonged viewed the Golden Tara as a diwata, a deity that protected their ancestral domain's rain forests and waterways.

The artifact later came in the possession of the area's governor, and was later sold to a multinational company, to whom the governor was indebted. For unknown reasons, the artifact eventually was put up for auction, prompting H. Otley Beyer to demand that the Philippine government purchase the artifact for the collection of the National Museum of the Philippines and the Filipino nation.[citation needed] Due to financial constraints, the Philippine government was unable to purchase the Golden Tara. It was purchased by the Field Museum of Natural History of Chicago, Illinois in 1922 for a sum of approximately 4,000.00. According to the Field Museum, the artifact was purchased to save it from being melted due the Philippines' financial difficulties, which may have led to the extraction of gold from the artifact to aid in the country's financial problems. The purchase was funded through a campaign in Chicago to buy the artifact, with the aid of the American government, which at the time was also the colonial government in the Philippines. By 2010, the artifact's price has risen to approximately ₱ 1.5 million.

Recovery[edit]

The artifact has been a source of conflict between Filipinos and Americans for many years, as many Filipino scholars have demanded the return of the Golden Tara. It is seen as a national treasure of the country, unreported during the time of its discovery, and sold to Americans during a period of national financial difficulty leading to the inability of the Philippine government to purchase the artifact when it was auctioned. Scholars have argued that if the reason the Field Museum took the artifact was due to fear of it may have been melted down, then the Field Museum should return it, or at least allow the Philippines to purchase the artifact back since no group in the Philippines advocates for its melting today.[2][3]

Also mentioned is how the artifact was bought by an American museum during a time when the Philippines was in financial duress under the colonial government of America. One of the major agitators for the return of the Golden Tara is former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who made his last privilege speech specifically for the purpose of returning the Golden Tara to the Philippines.[4] The Field Museum in Chicago has stated that it may return the Golden Tara if it is "strongly requested" by the Philippine government.[5][6]

In April 2018, a documentary from GMA Network featured the Golden Tara, this time showing the people of Agusan del Sur supporting the repatriation of the Golden Tara.[7] Scholars have also found a document proving the Philippines' right to claim the artifact.[8] The scholars, in partnership with the government, have been tasked to pursue the Philippine claim on the Golden Tara, housed in the Field Museum in Chicago, United States.[9][10]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ H. Otley Beyer, "Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology by Islands and Provinces," Philippine Journal of Science, Vol.77,Nos.34 (July–August 1947),pp. 205-374
  2. ^ "Agusan Gold Vajralasya". Philippine Heritage Collection. Field Museum of Natural History.
  3. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6uaS8lcygw
  4. ^ "Agusan Gold Vajralasya". Philippine Heritage Collection. Field Museum of Natural History.
  5. ^ "Agusan Gold Vajralasya". Philippine Heritage Collection. Field Museum of Natural History.
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6uaS8lcygw
  7. ^ "Agusan Gold Vajralasya". Philippine Heritage Collection. Field Museum of Natural History.
  8. ^ "Agusan Gold Vajralasya". Philippine Heritage Collection. Field Museum of Natural History.
  9. ^ "Agusan Gold Vajralasya". Philippine Heritage Collection. Field Museum of Natural History.
  10. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6uaS8lcygw