Kumano Gongen (熊野権現)

Kumano Gongen (also known as Kumano no Kami or Kumano no Okami) is a deity (Shinto) enshrined in Kumano Sanzan (three major shrines, Kumano-hongu-taisha Shrine, Kumano-hayatama-taisha Shrine and Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine) and became to be called gongen (avatar) under Honji-suijaku thought (theory of original reality and manifested traces). Kumano no Kami is called on to shrines around the country and there are about 3,000 shrines that enshrine Kumano no Kami, which are called Kumano-jinja Shrine or Junisho-jinja Shrine.

Engi (writing about the history)

Kumano Gongen is deities enshrined in Kumano Sanzan. The shusaijin (main enshrined deities) Ketsumimiko, Hayatama, and Fusubi (also called Musubi, spelled 牟須美 or 結) are called Kumano sanjo gongen, and other deities together with Kumano sanjo gongen are called Kumano junisho gongen.

Kumano Sanzan is composed of Kumano-hongu-taisha Shrine, Kumano-hayatama-taisha Shrine and Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine, but initially, they developed separately. Hongu was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin, Hayatama during the reign of Emperor Keiko ("Fuso-Ryakki"), and Nachi during the reign of Emperor Kosho by Ragyo (Digambara in Sanskrit) ("Kumanogongen Kongozao Hoden Zoko Nikki"), but it is not known exactly. In the official history, the names of the deities can be certainly identified in the description in a historical material in 806, which describes four jinfu (vassal households allotted to courtier, shrines and temples) were allotted to Hayatama-no-Kami and Kumano-Fusubi-no-Kami respectively, and it is thought that these two deities were enshrined together in Kumano-shin village that is identified as current Shingu City.

In mid ninth century, the deity of Hongu, who had been simply called Kumanonimasukami (the deity who resides in Kumano) and whose name had not been clear, became to be called Ketsumimiko or Shosei bosatsu, and a tradition that Ketsumimiko, together with Fusubi and Hayatama in Shingu, were traditional Kumano deities was established ('Kumano Gongen Suijaku Engi,' included in "Chokan-kanmon"). In addition, in the article dated on November 27, 1109 in "Chuyuki" (diary written by FUJIWARA no Munetada), not only these three deities, but also names such as Gosho Oji (five deities), Ichimankenzoku, Jumankongodoshi, Kanjo jugosho, Hikoyasha (Flying Yasha (Buddhist Guardian Deities)), and Meiji Kongodoji are listed. The article dated on March 5, 1134 in the records of pilgrimage of Toba-in and Taikenmon-in (included in "Choshuki" (diary of MINAMOTO no Morotoki)) lists the Kumano junisho gongen and their honji-butsu (original Buddhist divinity), so it is understood that Kumano sanjo gongen and Kumano junisho gongen had been established by then. Nachi, which is different in character from Hongu and Hayatama, was known as a sanctuary for takiroko (ritual devotions under a waterfall for a certain period), but "Kumanogongen Kongozao Hoden Zoko Nikki" established in early Kamakura period describes a tale of history of religious service in Kumano junisho gongen, which tells that enshrined deities of Hongu and Hayatama were also enshrined by this time. As described above, by enshrining deities of each other, Sanzan (three shrines) were integrated by the end of the 12th century.

Kumano Gongen

The shusaijin of each shrine is as follows, but enshrined deities are called on to each other, and as described above, the three shrines enshrine the three deities together.

It is said that Ketsumimiko, the shusaijin of Kumano-hongu-taisha Shrine is Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata), Kumano hayatama onokami in Kumano-hayatama-taisha Shrine of Shingu is Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha), and Kumano fusumi no kami in Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine is Senju Kannon (Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara). Among the three shrines, Hongu is thought to be Saiho Gokuraku Jodo (The Western Pure Land), Shingu to be Toho Joruri Jodo (the Eastern Pure Land), and Nachi to be Nanpo Hodaraku Jodo (the Southern Pure Land) respectively, and the entire area of Kumano became to be regarded as a pure land in and after the Heian period.

Kumano-hongu-taisha Shrine and Kumano-hayatama-taisha Shrine enshrine the twelve deities as follows:

Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine regards 'Ryugu' (enshrined deity: Onamuchi no mikoto [Hiro Gongen], honji-butsu: Senju Kannon) as the first shrine, the rest are lowered by one, and the eight deities of the middle four shrines and lower four shrines are enshrined in the sixth shrine (Hassha den [eight deities' shrine]), which totals to 'Jusanjo gongen.'

[Original Japanese]