Staff Picks: Daughters of Mara

In this occasional series, museum staff introduce you to their favorite pieces from the collection. We rotate our galleries every six months, so we’ll have fresh picks when there are new objects on view.

Daughters of the demon Mara, 1470-1480. Burma; Ajapala's temple, Pegu. Glazed terracotta. Museum purchase, B86P14.

Daughters of the demon Mara, 1470-1480. Burma; Ajapala’s temple, Pegu. Glazed terracotta. Museum purchase, B86P14.

Head of Publications Tom Christensen, whose most recent book is 1616: World in Motion, selected this relief of the daughters of Mara.

Tom Christensen

As the father of two young women, I was interested in the story of Mara’s daughters and their devotion to their father, which inspired this poem.




Sympathy for Mara

Mara’s daughters were bad girls
perhaps but they were loyal
daughters, not hesitating
to tempt the meditating
Buddha with their arsenal
of wicked tricks and come-ons:
hey Daddy want to have some fun

After all their dad was God
of Death and Desire and how
cool is that compared to dry
as dust Siddhartha pointing
to the earth like some old fart
ascetic all ribs and bones
radiant and luminous
no doubt but not so much fun
for goodtime girls like Mara’s

The Buddha had enlightenment
but he didn’t have daughters

4 Responses to “Staff Picks: Daughters of Mara”

  1. ArtesaAnita  on July 20th, 2012 at 8:42 am

    LOVE this poem, Tom! keep ‘em coming. If I should encounter Mara’s daughters in my meditations, I may just join them in the fun :)

  2. xensen  on July 23rd, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks, Anita!

  3. Security Camera Carl  on July 24th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    It is a wonderful poem that raises questions for someone like me. I was raised in a Buddhist household, but most of my knowledge is from different incarnations of Journey to the West. As I’ve grown older I’ve been increasingly interested in Buddhism’s Hindu based roots. Thank you, Tom Christensen for sending me on another scavenger hunt at the library and across the internet.

  4. David Buchanan  on July 27th, 2012 at 9:11 am

    As usual, The Devil has all the lines.

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