Title:Fu_ten (left), Bonten (center), Nichiten (right)Artist:Artist UnknownDate:c. 1300Creation Place:Asia, JapanCredit Line:The William Hood Dunwoody FundAccession Number:79.2.4
The three deities represented here are from a set of scrolls of the twelve devas, or celestial beings. Originally Hindu gods, they were adopted into the Buddhist pantheon to serve as guardians for the eight directions, the heavens and earth, and the sun and the moon. Introduced to Japan from China, possibly by the Japanese Buddhist priest Ko_bo_ Daishi (774-835), scrolls representing the twelve devas were used in Shingon sect rituals for new year's. At that time, sets of paintings were displayed on the exterior east wall of the Imperial Chapel in hopes that they would ensure protection of the nation during the coming months. Futen, or Va_yu, is the Hindu wind god and serves as guardian of the northwest. Bonten, or Brahma, is the Hindu god of creation and serves as guardian of the zenith of the celestial sphere. Nichiten is the Hindu sun god and serves in Buddhism in the same capacity. Nichiten holds a solar disc in his right hand within which is a three-legged rooster, believed to inhabit the sun.