Another oral legend about the temple states that sage Vashishtha practiced austerities to Tara, but was unsuccessful, so on the advice of a divine voice, he went to meet the Buddha – an avatar of Vishnu according to some schools of Hinduism – in Tibet. The Buddha instructed Vasishtha to worship Tara through the practices of Vamachara. During this time, Buddha had a vision of Tarapith as an ideal location for enshrining the image of Tara in a temple there. Buddha advised Vasishtha to go to Tarapith, the abode of Tara. At Tarapith to please Maa Tara Vasishtha did penance by reciting Tara mantra 300,000 times. Tara was pleased with Vasishtha’s penance and appeared before him. Vasishtha appealed to Tara to appear before him in the form of a mother suckling Shiva on her breast, as per the Buddha’s divine vision . Tara then incarnated herself in that form before Vasishtha and turned into a stone image. Since then Tara is worshipped in the Tarapith temple in the form of a mother suckling Shiva on her breast.
Tarapith, Kalighat and Nabadwip are considered the most important tirthas (holy places with a sacred water body) for Bengali Hindus.
The Tarapith temple’s fame as a pilgrimage centre with the deity of Tara enshrined in it is due to “the temple’s founding myths, its type of worship (which includes blood offerings), the hymns sung there, the powers of the nearby water body, along with the inhabitants and rituals of the adjacent cremation ground”.
The temple base has thick walls, built of red brick. The stone image of Tara depicted as a mother suckling Shiva. The forehead of the metal image is adorned with red kumkum (vermilion). Priests take a speck of this kumkum and apply it on the foreheads of the devotees as a mark of Tara’s blessings. The devotees offer coconuts, bananas and silk saris. The devotees take a holy bath at the sacred water body adjacent to the temple before entering the temple premises to offer worship and even after the worship.
Blood sacrifice of goats is the daily norm in the temple. The devotees also smear their forehead with a bit of blood from the pit, as a mark of reverence to the deity.
Bamakhepa is the tantric saint popularly known as the “mad saint” of Tara ma an ardent devotee lived near the temple and meditated in the cremation grounds, also a contemporary of another famous Bengali saint Ramakrishna.