In Japanese culture several things are considered as charms that promise to usher in peace, luck and sanctity. One of them is the Daruma Doll, also known as the Dharma Doll. (Note the similarity in pronunciation?)
What is the Daruma Doll?
Modeled after the founder of Zen sect of Buddhism in China, Bodhidharma, the Daruma Dolls are typically red in color and resemble a man with a beard. However, depending on the region and artist, these “dolls” are painted in different colors and strokes.
Although the Daruma is considered to be an omocha (Japanese word for toy) by some, its design is rich in symbolism and is considered to be a good luck charm by many believers of Buddhism. Perhaps this is the reason these Daruma Dolls are considered as great gifts for friends and families.
It is considered by many as a “wish doll”.
There is another interesting aspect to the doll. When sold, these figures feature blank white eyes. It is the buyer (or the person gifted to) who is required to paint one of the eyes with black ink while making a wish. It is only when the wish is fulfilled that the other eye has to be painted.
Furthermore, one has to keep the doll at an elevated plane, from where it will be visible to the owner. The idea is to make the person remember about the goal every time he or she sees it.
The Daruma dolls have to be burnt every year at a nearby temple.
Traditionally, the Daruma dolls should never be kept for more than a year. So, at the end of each year, the Daruma dolls are brought back to the temples from where they were purchased and burnt in a special ceremony. This ceremony is usually held every year right after the Japanese New Year to express gratitude to Bodhidharma. A new Daruma is purchased thereafter for the next year.
Burning of the Daruma dolls, much like firecrackers burnt and the lamps lit during Diwali, is considered auspicious. Not just to ward off evil spirits, both these festivals are considered as harbingers of good fortune and luck.
In Diwali, Hindus celebrate the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya. Apart from being a symbol of good luck, this Hindu festival also urges one to keep up hope and achieve the goal, caring the least about any hindrances. Similarly, Daruma dolls also urge the followers of Zen sect of Buddhism to rise up several times over, until the target is achieved.
In fact, the Japanese phrase ‘nana korobi ya oki’ defines the good luck charm associated with Daruma dolls in the best possible way. It means – “Seven times down, eight times up”.