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Protectors and PredatorsGods of Medieval Japan, Volume 2$
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Bernard Faure

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839314

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839314.001.0001

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From Goddess to Dragon

From Goddess to Dragon

Benzaiten

Chapter:
(p.163) 4 From Goddess to Dragon
Source:
Protectors and Predators
Author(s):

Bernard Faure

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824839314.003.0005

The genealogy of the Buddhist goddess Benzaiten has been traced back a Vedic river goddess named Sarasvatī. In the process, this goddess became assimilated to the snake-deities known as nāgas and to the dragons of the Sino-Japanese tradition. Sarasvāti was also a deity of sound and music, and in Japan she became linked to the lute (biwa) -- which explains why her main cultic center, Chikubushima, is a small island in the midst of Biwa Lake. Benzaiten became the protector of musicians, and in particular of the blind monks that sang the Tale of the Heike.

Keywords:   Sarasvatī, river goddess, Benzaiten, dragons, nāgas, water symbolism, goddess of music, blind singers

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