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Bonten@ž“V
KEY WORD :@art history / iconography
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Sk: Brahma. A major Hindu deity thought to be responsible for creating the world. Along with *Taishakuten ’éŽß“V, he appears as a protector of the historical Buddha *Shaka Žß‰Þ, from earliest times. The pair are shown in scenes from the Buddha's life, particularly administering his first bath, and in triads, *sanzonbutsu ŽO‘¸•§, where Bonten usually appears as an ascetic and holds a lotus. However, they came to be seen as general protective deities and in the Nara period frequently were placed on the dais to either side of the main figure. Bonten's special role in the Buddha's life was in persuading him to teach after he had become enlightened. In Japan his attributes are not fixed, and Bonten and Taishakuten may be differentiated only slightly by dress and by mudra that mirror each other. It is only as an esoteric figure that his iconography is truly distinctive. Bonten had no independent cult in Japan but is always shown either with Taishakuten or as one of the Twelve Deities *juuniten \“ñ“V. Well known images include the Nara period set in the *Hokkedou –@‰Ø“° (Sangatsudou ŽOŒŽ“°) of Toudaiji “Œ‘厛 in Nara, where, according to temple tradition, the sculpture to the left of the main image, *Fukuukenjaku Kannon •s‹ó㮍õŠÏ‰¹ is Bonten. This figure is shown wearing armor under his robe, which may suggest that he is Taishakuten, who, in India, may be shown as a martial figure. On the other hand, in several paintings in Japan the figure to the left of the main deity (Bonten's proper place) is also shown in armor. In the Hokkedou set, the two are shown wearing robes from the Tang dynasty and are close in appearance to bodhisattvas *bosatsu •ìŽF. Other well known images include the pair from the Nara period in the *Kondou ‹à“° of Toushoudaiji “‚µ’ñŽ›. The most striking image is the early Heian pair in Touji “ŒŽ›, which captures Bonten as he appears in the outer court of the *Taizoukai mandara ‘Ù‘ ŠE™Ö䶗… with four heads, a third eye, and four arms. In addition, he rides on a lotus platform supported by four geese (the goose is his vehicle; it is a symbol of knowledge and its name has the same sound as a word in his mantra). He is dressed in the usual robes of a bosatsu and holds a fly whisk, a lotus, a staff, and has one palm turned out.
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(C)2001 Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System.@No reproduction or republication without written permission.
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