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Benzaiten (, ) is the Japanese name for the goddess Saraswati; there was an important river in ancient India of this name (see Vedic Saraswati River). Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. She is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. She is often depicted holding a biwa, which is a traditional Japanese lute.

Transfer from India to Japan

Her Sanskrit name is "Sarasvatî Devî", which means "flowing water", and so Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, words (and knowledge, by extension), speech, eloquence, and music. The characters used initially to write her name, read "Biancaitian" in Chinese and "Bensaiten" in Japanese (辯才天), reflected her role as the goddess of eloquence. Because the Sutra of Golden Light promised protection of the state, in Japan she became a protector-deity, at first of the state and then of people. Lastly, she became one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, and the Sino-Japanese characters used to write her name changed to 弁財天 (Benzaiten), which reflects her role in bestowing monetary fortune. Sometimes she is called Benten, although this name refers to the goddess Lakshmi.

In the Rig-Veda (6.61.7) Sarasvati is credited with killing the three-headed Vritra, also known as Ahi ("snake"). This is probably one of the sources of Sarasvati/Benzaiten's close association with snakes and dragons in Japan. She is enshrined on the Island of Enoshima in Sagami Bay, about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo, and numerous other locations throughout Japan; and she and a five-headed dragon are the central figures of the Enoshima Engi, a history of the shrines on Enoshima written by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kōkei (皇慶) in AD 1047. According to Kōkei, Benzaiten is the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi (無熱池; literally "lake without heat"), known in Sanskrit as Anavatapta, the lake lying at the center of the world according to an ancient Buddhist cosmological view.

Benzaiten has been syncretized with some Shinto goddesses.

Benzaiten shrine, Inokashira Park

External links

Sources

  • Japan and Indian Asia by Hajime Nakamura. Publisher: Firma KLM, 1961. Publication Date: 1961
  • India and Japan: A Study in interaction during 5th cent - 14th century - By Upendra Thakur .
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Simple English

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Benzaiten (, ) is the Japanese name of the goddess Saraswati. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan in the 6th to 8th centuries, mainly through the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light .

Her Sanskrit name is "Sarasvatî Devî", which means "flowing water", this is why Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, words, speech, and music. The characters used to write her name showed her as the goddess of eloquence. Because of the Sutra of Golden Light, in Japan she became a protector, of the people. Lastly, she became one of the Seven Lucky Gods.

In the Rig-Veda (6.61.7) Sarasvati killed the three-headed snake, also known as Vritra. This is probably one of the sources of Sarasvati/Benzaiten's close link with snakes and dragons in Japan. She has a shrine on the Island of Enoshima in Sagami Bay, about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo; and a five-headed dragon and her are the main people in the Enoshima Engi, a history of the shrines on Enoshima written by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kokei (皇慶). According to Kokei, Benzaiten is the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi (無熱池; literally "lake without heat"), the lake which is at the center of the world in an ancient Buddhist view.

Other websites

Sources

  • Japan and Indian Asia by Hajime Nakamura. Publisher: Firma KLM, 1961. Publication Date: 1961
  • India and Japan: A Study in interaction during 5th cent - 14th century - By Upendra Thakur .

Japanese Mythology & Folklore

Mythic Texts and Folktales:
Kojiki | Nihon Shoki | Otogizōshi | Yotsuya Kaidan
Urashima Tarō | Kintarō | Momotarō | Tamamo-no-Mae
Divinities:
Izanami | Izanagi | Amaterasu
Susanoo | Ama-no-Uzume | Inari
List of divinities | Kami | Seven Lucky Gods
Legendary Creatures:
Oni | Kappa | Tengu | Tanuki | Fox | Yōkai | Dragon
Mythical and Sacred Places:
Mt. Hiei | Mt. Fuji | Izumo | Ryūgū-jō | Takamagahara | Yomi


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