Important Cultural PropertyTwelve Devas

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  • Seven masks
  • Heian period/10th century
  • Kyoto National Museum
  • C甲18

These seven masks are part of a set of processional masks of the Twelve Heavenly Beings that were used in the consecration ritual (J., kanjô-e) at To-ji Temple, which included a procession of musicians dressed in costumes of the Twelve Devas (J., jûniten). Stylistic elements suggest that the masks were sculpted around the late tenth century. Some scholars hypothesize that they may have been made in honor of the retired Emperor Enyû (959-991) in 989, when he underwent the Two Worlds Consecration ritual, an ordination into the highest level of priesthood. Of the twelve, the Kyoto National Museum has the masks of Taishakuten (Skt., Indra), Bonten (Skt., Brahma), Nitten (Skt., Surya), Katen (Skt., Agni), Fûten (Skt., Vayu), Bishamonten (Skt., Vaisravana), and Jizaiten (also known in Japanese as Ishanaten; Skt., Isana).