Kari Grohn's Home Page - Japan - Takekiri-eshiki


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Kurama Temple
(鞍馬寺) ,

Takekiri-eshiki is a bamboo-cutting ceremony based on a story about the monk Buen (峯延). The legend is that one day while Buen was undertaking austerities in the mountains monstrous male and female serpents attacked him. After the monk cut and killed the male serpent by chanting a powerful mantra the female serpent pleaded for mercy and promised to help people to make a stream from the mountain. The serpent kept her word and since then the villagers could enjoy affluent water and worshiped the serpent by creating a little shrine.

In the annual ceremony eight male parishioners clad in costumes of warrior monks form two teams. Upon a signal the teams rush out to cut 4m long and 10cm thick green bamboo poles with strokes of mountain swords into eight pieces. The poles symbolise the serpents, which are incarnations of evil. The ceremony is performed to pray for a bountiful harvest. The area represented by the winning team will enjoy rich harvests that year. The teams of Omi and Tanba represent the eastern and western sides of Mt Kurama. In ancient times the area around Lake Biwa was called Omi and parts of Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures Tanba.

The pieces of cut bamboo are believed to guard homes against misfortune. At the end of the ritual, a female bamboo, roots intact, is returned and replanted in the grove from which the male trees were taken.





















Monk Gantei (鑑禎)

Kurama temple has its origin in the monk Gantei who had a dream about being guided to a sacred place on the saddle of a white horse. He followed this spiritual transmission and the horse brought him to the foot of the mountain, where he built a small thatched temple to Bishamonten. Years later, Isendo Fujiwara was also guided on horseback to the mountain with the intent of building a temple to the Thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva. Gantei’s temple became known as Kurama-dera (Horse-saddle temple) due to Gantei and Fujiwara both being guided there on saddle-back.