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Benten (Benzaiten) (Japanese)

Divinity of the Reasoning Faculty, in Japanese mythology, one of the Seven Gods of Luck (Shichi-fuku-jin); the Buddhist patron goddess of literature and music, of wealth, and of femininity, of everything that flows: water, words, speech, eloquence, music and by extension knowledge.

She is generally associated with the sea; many of her shrines are located near it, and she is frequently depicted riding on, or accompanied by, a sea dragon. According to one legend, she married a sea dragon, thus putting an end to his ravages of the island Enoshima. She is often shown playing the biwa, a kind of lute. A white serpent serves as her messenger.

Benten is identified with the Indian goddess Sarasvat-, also a patron of literature and the arts, who probably travelled to Japan along with Buddhism.

Benten (Benzaiten) is the sole female among the Shichi-fuku-jin. Her temples and shrines are almost invariably in the neighborhood of water - the sea, a river, or a pond. She is often represented as a beautiful woman with the power to assume the form of a serpent, or shown seated on a dragon or serpent and playing a lute. In fact, the snake is almost always associated with Benzaiten, who was originally a Hindu deity (Sarasvati) who represented learning, music and poetry. Such artistic learning and wisdom often bring prosperity, hence her inclusion in the Japanese group of Seven Gods of Luck. She also has a jewel that grants desires. Some say it is a jade, while others say it is a pearl.

See further: Shichi-fuku-jin (Seven Gods of Luck)

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