When Buddhism had taken its birth in India on the fifth and sixth centuries AD, its cultural impact had spread places far and beyond the Indian subcontinent. One such deep impact of the Buddhist practices and symbolism was felt in the East Asian island country, Japan. Curiously, the cultural acceptance of cross border traditions in Japan did not just result in a strong sense of reverence towards the Buddha and that what he preached, but is also visible in the plethora of Hindu deities who are being paid a huge respect and worshipped in Japanese culture, as much as the way they respect and accept Sanskrit.
Filmmaker and historian Benoy K Behl have been analyzing the spread over and preservation of Indian religious traditions in Japan for nearly last two decades. His research has brought out his book ‘Hindu deities worshipped in Japan’ and in his film ‘Indian deities worshipped in Japan’ which was screened at the India Habitat Center in Delhi on May 12.
Benoy K Behl has talked about some of the findings he has made through his studying.The very impact of Buddhism, Hindu deities, the Sanskrit language, and culture took an advent in Japan from the middle of the first millennium, along two routes. One was through China and the other through Korea. The other note-worthy route was through the great sea-faring Hindu kingdom of Champa in present-day Vietnam.
Yes, Saraswati is the most revered deity in Japan, after the Buddha. Among the others include Lakshmi, Ganesha, Indra, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Yama, Kamadeva, Varuna, Vayu, and many others.
The Indian deities are worshipped quite in the same way, though there are some interesting and lovely modifications. Like for example, in Japan Ganesha is offered radishes which he is very fond of.
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