Posts Tagged ‘Ebisu’

Daikokuten Iconography in Japan — From Hindu Destroyer to Buddhist Protector to Japanese Santa Claus. Over 300 annotated photos, copious reference notes, 47 slides. Oct. 2017.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

The main goal of Condensed Visual Classroom Guide — Daikokuten Iconography in Japan is to illustrate “visually” Japan’s taming of a demonic, bloodthirsty, flesh-eating, multi-limbed Vedic / Indic / Hindu deity. Today, this Hindu deity (Mahākāla, a “terrible” form of Śiva) is portrayed as a harmless, human-like, potbellied, jolly fellow in Japan’s religious pantheon. His Japanese name is Daikokuten. Today Daikokuten remains one of Japan’s most popular gods of good fortune (e.g., abundant harvests, well-stocked kitchens, lucrative livelihoods). In his standard modern form – portly, dwarfish, jovial, wearing a hat, holding a treasure sack, traveling everywhere to dispense fortune to the people – he is strikingly similar to the Christian world’s Santa Claus.  The second goal is to underscore the strong influence of India (rather than China) on Japan’s pantheon of gods. In many ways, the religious landscape in Japan is more akin to Japanese Hinduism than to Chinese Buddhism. The third goal is to provide scholars, art historians, curators, teachers, & students with a “jumpstart” visual guide to the richness & dynamic complexity of Japan’s religious art. Nearly two millennium of Śiva artwork is organized chronologically & thematically herein. Given space limits, the guide’s “visual canvas” includes art from only India, Central Asia, China, & Japan. Center stage is given to Japanese art from the 9th to 21st centuries.