Konpira 金比羅
KEY WORD : art history / iconoraphy
Also synonymous with Kubira 宮毘羅. A god and leader of the *Yasha 夜又, the protectors of the Buddhist Dharma, and, particularly, the leader of Yakushi's Twelve Generals yakushi juuni shinshou 薬師十二神将. Also one of Shaka's Sixteen Protectors *juuroku zenshin 十六善神 of the DAIHANNYAKYOU 大般若経. Konpira is also worshipped alone. He appears in the dress of a Chinese general but otherwise has no fixed attributes or stance. According to legend Konpira flew from India to a sacred cave in the Konpiradou 金比羅堂 of Matsuodera 松尾寺 on Zouzusan 象頭山, a low mountain (521 m) near the sea in Kagawa prefecture, and became the temple's protective deity. Through this maritime location he is worshipped principally as a seafaring god and secondarily as a god of water for agriculture. He may appear as a snake or as a dragon god ryuujin 竜神 and he is also identified with the deity *kami 神 of Mt. Miwa 三輪. In the Edo period Zouzusan was a site of the shugendou 修験道 mountain practice (see * En no Gyouja 役行者), and as a result it became a popular pilgrimage site. In the Meiji period the site was made a Shinto shrine in line with the policy of elimination of Buddhist practice and renamed Kotohiraguu 金刀比羅宮 while the deity was renamed Oomononushi no kami 大物主神. In spite of this the principal image remains that of the Buddhist Konpira who therefore remains the principal deity *shintai 神体.


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