The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan III

Not all of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan were male, as there was a female deity that had a Hindu counterpart , both of which represented good fortune and protection. In this article, you will also learn more about Daikokuten ,  known as a Japanese god of wealth, commerce and trade.

5. Daikokuten (also called Daikoku) is the god of wealth, commerce and trade. This god was originally known as a Hindu warrior deity named Mahakala, but came to be known in Japan as the jolly-looking god of wealth, farmers, food, and good fortune.

The earliest depiction of Daikokuten is believed to have been connected to a fierce warrior persona. This view most likely comes from a statue that depicts the god with a fierce expression that resembled that of a war god linked to the Hindu faith. This god was dressed in armor. The statue was found at the Kanzeonji Temple and serves as the oldest image of the god that dates back to the late Heian period (794 to 1185).

This image started to consistently change in the 15th century when the Japanese embraced more of a cheerful look for the god. Artwork started to show Daikokuten as a pudgy deity that wore a peasant’s hat. He is often standing on bales of rice with a large sack filled with treasure slung over his shoulder. A small mallet with magical powers is in his hand.

On the home front, the god is seen as a deity of the kitchen and a provider of food. The kitchens of monasteries and private homes will still to this day show images of the god , a tradition that links back to China and India. Monastery kitchens would often post the images in hopes that the monks would always receive nourishment.

6. Benzaiten (also referred to as Benten-sama) is the goddess of knowledge, art and beauty, and is especially connected to music. This is the Japanese name for the Hindu goddess named Saraswati. Worshipping the goddess Benzaiten started in Japan during the 6th and 8th centuries. The people would read about the goddess, as a section of the Sutra Of Golden Light was devoted to her and she is mentioned in the Lotus Sutra.

The two goddesses are similar yet different. For example, in artistic depictions, Saraswati is seen holding a stringed instrument called a veena, while Benzaiten has a btwa is her hand , a traditional Japanese lute.  

Benzaiten is seen as the goddess of everything that flows , whether it is water, words, knowledge or music. The Japanese also look to the goddess for protection who is believed to look after the state and then the people. The goddess became known as one of the Seven Gods of Fortune when the Sino-Japanese characters used to write her name was changed. This placed more emphasis on the goddess as one who could bring financial gain and fortune to people.

The goddess has a connection to dragons and snakes that may have originated from a tale of Sarasvati, where she is credited with slaying Vritra , the creature with three heads that is also called Ahi (or snake). Many shrines have been erected in her honor throughout Japan.