female figure in elaborate head dress, PL hand in gesture near chest, riding on a fox; fox is flying on green cloud with legs extended; snakes wrapped around fox's legs; two smaller figures kneeling in foreground

Dakiniten, the Buddhist Manifestation of the Shinto Deity Inari, late 14th century

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Buddhism officially entered Japan in the mid-500s, and by the 800s, Japanese Buddhists had developed a theory that kami, native gods, were incarnations of Buddhist deities. The figure of Dakiniten in this scroll exemplifies Buddhism’s ready assimilation of native gods. In Hinduism, a ḍākinī is a female spirit or deity who eats the flesh and heart of humans nearing death. In Japan, the deity entered the Buddhist canon as a converted Hindu goddess, Dakiniten. Dakiniten was further conflated with the Shinto kami (deity) Inari, who was associated with abundance, especially of rice. Here, she is shown riding a white fox, another representation of Inari. The fox’s legs are wrapped in snakes, a reference to another converted Hindu goddess, Benzaiten.

Details
Title
Dakiniten, the Buddhist Manifestation of the Shinto Deity Inari
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2013.29.18
Curator Approved

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female figure in elaborate head dress, PL hand in gesture near chest, riding on a fox; fox is flying on green cloud with legs extended; snakes wrapped around fox's legs; two smaller figures kneeling in foreground