Lord Ganesha: One Deity Across Many Borders

JAPAN, September 7, 2020 : Faith knows no boundaries. The presence of a Deity in two countries proves the claim. The famous beloved Hindu elephant-headed God of wisdom in India, Ganesha, is worshipped in Japanese form as Kangiten. There are more than 250 temples across Japan dedicated to Japanese Buddhist (Shingon and Tendai schools) form of Ganesha, who is locally known as Kangi-ten, Sho-ten, Daisho-ten, Daisho Kangi-ten, Tenson, Kangi Jizai-ten, Shoden-sama, Binayaka-ten, Ganabachi, and Zobi-ten.

While Kangiten is worshipped throughout Japan, Hozan-ji on the summit of Mount Ikoma is his most important and active temple. Tokyo’s Asakusa also has a temple which dates back to the 8th Century called Matsuchiyama Shoden temple dedicated to Kangiten. Under the influence of Japanese scholar Kukai (774-835 CE), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kangiten first emerged as a minor deity in the Japanese Buddhist pantheon in the 8th-9th centuries CE. It was only during the Heian period (794-1185 CE), which is considered a classical golden age in Japanese history that Kangiten emerged as an “Independent God.” Kangiten became the God of Obstacles and hence had to be worshipped to avoid obstacles.