An art historian and filmmaker traces the spiritual connections between India and Japan
Breathtaking pictures by Benoy K. Behl make this volume an educative journey through the spiritual realm of the Japanese. Supported by facts,culled through painstaking research, Behl presents the pantheon of Hindu deities worshipped in the Land of the Rising Sun. This book is a sequel to a series of exhibitions Behl organised for The Japan Foundation. Divided into 10 chapters, the book, a Frontline publication, from The Hindu Group Publishing, is high on aesthetic and academic content. The photographs and text make Hindu Deities Worshipped in Japan a collector’s item, a rich product from Behl, well-known photographer, art-historian and filmmaker.
The forms of deities are different from what one is familiar with in India — they are not slender, bejewelled gods and goddesses but robust figures, mostly in a seated position. Saraswati is dealt with in detail, with pictures of the goddess of learning in various forms, both painting and sculptures, belonging to different periods of time. The concepts of veena (there are several versions) and the lotus, associated with the goddess, recur. The Tower of Benzaiten (Saraswati), Osaka, could be the tallest shrine in the world, says the caption.
Lakshmi, Indra and Kubera are among the other deities worshipped in Japan. It is interesting to find a charming Venugopala Krishna, enshrined in Todai-ji Temple, Nara. The author has not missed a painting of the deity on the wall of a restaurant. We learn that Varuna (Suiten) is worshipped to prevent droughts and typhoons in a land so prone to devastating floods. Shiva Ishana is found in both meditative and aggressive poses. He is complete with a trident, a garland of skulls, and a circle of flame. About Yama (Emma), Rev. Kourya Imai, chief priest of the Ennou-ji in Kamakura, says: “The deity that you see in front of us [in the main shrine] is Yama or Emma in Japanese. The Rig Veda speaks of Yama, who is the first ancestor of human beings. The sound of the word Yama became Emma as the name travelled and came to Japan.”