Juniten (十二天)

Juniten is a mixture of the twelve deities of 'Ten,' which are Goho Zenshin (good deities protecting dharma) in Buddhism and is given high value in Esoteric Buddhism, as well as Shitenno (Four Guardian Kings).


Ten' or the image of Tenbu in Buddhism was established by the historical process where the gods in Indian myths and Brahmanism were incorporated into Buddhism and became Goho Zenshin. Juniten was determined to be the eight Ten which guard the eight directions of north, south, east, west, northeast, southeast, northwest and southwest, adding four gods related to heaven, earth, the sun and the moon, and consists of twelve deities of Ishanaten (Isana), Taishakuten (Indra), Katen (Agni), Emmaten (Yama), Rasetsuten (Rakshasa), Suiten (Varuna), Futen (Vayu), Bishamonten (Vaisravana), Bonten (Brahma, Brahman), Jiten (Prithivi), Nitten (Surya, Aditya) and Gatten (Candra). In Japan it has been shaped since the 9th century during the Heian period. The direction that each deity guards and each Sanskrit name are as follows.


Ishanaten (Northeast) (Isana)
Taishakuten (East) (wIndra)
Katen (Southeast) (wAgni)
Enmaten (South) (wYama)
Rasetsuten (Southwest) (wRakshasa, Nirrti)
Suiten (West) (wVaruna)
Futen (Northwest) (wVayu)
Bishamonten (North) (wVaisravana)

Heaven and earth

Bonten (heaven) (wBrahman)
Jiten (earth) (wPrithivi)

The sun and the moon

Nitten (the sun) (wSurya,Aditya)
Gatten (the moon) (wCandra)

Works in Japan

The major characteristic of Juniten is as 'Gohoshin', a guardian deity of directions. Most of the works are pictures rather than sculptures and pictures drawn on Kakejiku (hanging scroll) or Byobu (a folding screen consisting of multiple, joined panels) were used as guardian deities of dojo, where important prayers and austerities, and Buddhist ceremonies were held.

The picture of Juniten in the Kyoto National Museum (which was in the possession of To-ji Temple) (later part of the Heian period, in 1127, national treasure) is Kakejiku on which each Juniten is drawn, and is a representative Buddhist picture which has the sensitive and graceful style of dynasty. This was used at Goshichinichi-no-mishiho (a ritual held at Shingon-in in Imperial Palace to pray for the Emperor's health).

The picture of Juniten at Saidai-ji Temple in Nara (beginning of the Heian period, national treasure) is the oldest Juniten image in Japan, and was drawn in the 9th century and each deity sits on birds and animals such as buffalo and turtle, while each deity in the picture in the Kyoto National Museum sits on carpet.

Many works, in which each Juniten deity was drawn as a standing figure on a pair of folding screens with six panels, remain, and these were used in order to guard dojo such as Denpo Kanjo (the consecration for the Transmission of the Dharma), an important ritual in Esoteric Buddhism. As a Byobu of Juniten, the example in To-ji Temple, which was drawn during the Kamakura period, is particularly well known.

In addition, Juniten also appears as a member of the Buddhas which make up the Mandala. Among Ryokai-mandala (mandala of the two realms), Juniten is included in the Buddhas of Saige-in (outer court) on Garbha-mandala (Gekongobu-in). Moreover, Juniten Mandala, on which Juniten is placed around a Fudo Myo (Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings) image with four arms, is used in anchin-ho, an esoteric rite for achieving peace and security of the state.

The wooden statue at Muryo-ji Temple in Gamagori City, Aichi Prefecture, which is a rare Juniten statue, seems to have been shaped as a part of a cubic diagram of Mandala.

Besides these, there are Juniten masks (latter part of the Heian period, important cultural properties) in the Kyoto National Museum, which were in the possession of To-ji Temple. At the time of ritual of Denpo Kanjo in the Heian period, people who put on Juniten's masks and costumes appeared in the 'March of Juniten' but it was changed to Byobu of Juniten after medieval times.

[Original Japanese]