Bishamonten is the God of Warriors, the Guardian of the Northern Quarter. He is also known as Tamonten or the Black Warrior. He is not an original Japanese God but his origins have been traced to India. In Sanskrit, he was mentioned as Vaisravana.
Bishamonten not only stands to represent as the God of warriors but is also revered as a dispenser or giver of good fortune, prosperity and wealth. He is worshipped as a God of Healing who is bestowed with celestial powers to save the lives of emperors from life threatening diseases and eliminates plague.
Mostly personified in a variety of materials such as ivory, silver, stone and wood, Bishamonten is delineated with a spear in one hand, pagoda in the other hand and completely clad in armor. He is the most powerful God amongst the Guardians of The Four Directions and is amongst the Seven Lucky Gods in Japan but is also worshipped independently. The small pagoda that Bishamonten carries in his hand represents the treasure house and he is the dispenser and protector of this divine treasure. But he is known to share the divine wealth with only those who are wealthy.
As one of the Gods of the Four Heavenly Kings, he is known as Tamonten or ‘The One who listens to many teachings’. As Tamonten, he is a protector of Buddha’s teachings and the places where he preaches. According to the legends, Bishamonten lives on the north side of the Mount Sumeru and is in command of the Yaksa and Raksha or spirits and demons.
Tracing Bishamonten’s roots and adaptation in Japanese mythology is interesting. There are two versions, one that links him to the Indian God of Prosperity, Kubera and the other to the warrior Hachiman. Bishmonten or Vaisravana in Sanskrit which means ‘One who hears everything in the kingdom’ is very close to the adaptation of Kubera’s iconography and image in Indian literature.
While in the Kamakura era, the main shrine of warriors to pray was the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and so Bishamonten came to be identified with the warrior. As one of the Seven Lucky Gods, there are numerous statues available of Bishamonten in a variety of materials ranging from wood carvings to priceless statues in ivory and metals. These beautifully carved statues of the Seven Lucky Gods or individually of Bishamonten are considered to bring luck, prosperity and good fortune at home and in the office.
Browse our Seven Lucky Gods Collection
You can browse much more carved Mammoth Ivory Tusk artifacts at our Mammoth Ivory Figurines collection