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Buddhist Paintings

Nitten (Surya) (One of the Twelve Devas)

  • Hanging scroll, color and gold on silk
  • 144.0 x 126.4 cm
  • Late-Heian Period (Dated 1127)
  • National Treasure
  • AK 283

Nitten is one of the Twelve Devas that were made in 1127 to be hung at the annual, New Year's ceremony of esoteric prayers, held at Shingon-in, in the Imperial Palace. They were formerly owned by Kyoogokoku-ji (To-ji) temple.

Nitten is called Surya in Sanskrit and is portrayed in the form of a Bodhisattva He is often shown riding on a cart pulled by from three to seven white horses. One of the unique characteristics of these scrolls is that all the devas, with the exception of Bonten, sit on felt pedestals, instead of animals.

The Twelve Devas are the guardians of the four quarters and four semi-quarters, up and down, and the sun and moon. Nitten is the guardian of the sun, as suggested by the characters for his name, which mean "sun deva."

Bishamon-ten Ishana-ten Taishaku-ten Ka-ten Enma-ten Rasetsu-ten Sui-ten Fu-ten Bon-ten Ji-ten Nitten Gatten

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