Difference between revisions of "Benzaiten"

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(Created page with "*''Other Names'': 弁天 ''(Benten)'' *''Japanese'': 弁財天 ''(Benzaiten)'' Benzaiten, or Benten, is a Shinto/Buddhist goddess associated with music, snak...")

Revision as of 05:34, 11 February 2020

  • Other Names: 弁天 (Benten)
  • Japanese: 弁財天 (Benzaiten)

Benzaiten, or Benten, is a Shinto/Buddhist goddess associated with music, snakes, and bodies of water; her most prominent shrines are located on islands such as Enoshima (in the sea near Kamakura) and Chikubushima (in the center of Lake Biwa), and many small shrines to Benzaiten are also located on tiny islands in manmade ponds. She is one of the Seven Lucky Gods.

Originally developing out of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, Benten was adopted as a deity in many parts of China before being transmitted to Japan, where she merged with a local serpent deity, Ugajin. She is often worshiped as a protector deity, and is often depicted as a figure sharing much iconography with Buddhist entities, including a fiery halo, lotus blossom seat, crown with a smaller deity's head or face, and a variety of objects held in her six or eight hands. Benzaiten is also often associated with a concept of three-in-one, and an emblem of three triangles arranged into one larger triangle is frequently emblazoned on banners and elsewhere at Benten shrines.

Worship of Benzaiten in Japan dates back at least to the 10th century; statues of Benzaiten and other deities were already present at Tôdai-ji in Nara at that time.[1]

In the Ryûkyû Kingdom, the kikôe-ôgimi, high priestess of the kingdom, came in the 16th century to be strongly associated with Benten, and Benten with the protection of the kingdom.[2]

Partial List of Notable Benzaiten Shrines


  • Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 196.
  1. "Tôdai-ji Temple, Sangatsu-dô: Hokke-dô," pamphlet available on-site at Tôdai-ji.
  2. Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, 164-165.
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