Sakamoto Nenbutsu Odori

Takinomiya Shrine

Kagawa

 

In the early Heian period, a prayer dance (nenbutsu odori) was performed to soothe the unruly spirits of people who recently died or met an untimely death. In the middle of the tenth century the dance was performed for the bones of the deceased, which were abandoned along the roads, and for those who had died from epidemics.

 

Nenbutsu odori of the Takinomiya shrine originated when Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) served as the governor of Sanuki province (current Shikoku) which suffered from a serious drought. Michizane prayed for rain by purifying himself. On the seventh day a white snake came out of a small shrine and changed itself into a dragon which went up in the sky and made it rain heavily. People exploded in delight, crying, jumping, shouting for joy and started dancing and ringing bells – their entrancement brought the dance spontaneously.

 

Later, monk Ippen Shonin (1239-1289) spread the Nenbutsu among the people. He taught people by singing and dancing. He invoked Amida Buddha through repeated chanting homage to Amida Buddha (namu amida butsu). He used to say: Chant and dance.

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