Daikokuten means Maha kala (Sanskrit:, transliteration: 摩訶迦羅) that is a reincarnation of Shiva, a deity of the Hindu religion.
Daikokuten of Mikkyo (Esoteric Buddhism)
It is a deity of Mikkyo evolved from Maha kala.
Daikokuten of Buddhism
In Buddhism, Daikokuten is a deity that has its origins in the Daikokuten of Mikkyo and is one of the Tenbu (deities who reside in the heavenly realms).
(Original Buddhism denies the existence of deities and polytheism.)
(Even at present, some sects of Buddhism deny the existence of deities and polytheism.)
Daikokuten of the Shinto religion
It is a deity of the Shinto religion that was created by combining Daikokuten of Mikkyo and Okuninushi no mikoto, so called syncretism of Buddhism and Shinto, and known as one of Shichifukujin (Seven Deities of Good Luck).
Maha kala, an incarnation of the Hindu deity Shiva, was adopted into the Indian Mikkyo religion. It was named Daikokuten (大黒天) because "Maha" means big (大) (or great) and "kala" means time or black (黒) (darkness (暗黒)). It is also translated into Chinese characters as 大暗黒天 (Daiankokuten). As its name suggests, Daiankokuten is a Goho zenjin (good deity that protects dharma) with a blue-black body and angry countenance.
It was introduced into Japan together with Mikkyo. In Japan, the term of Daikokuten normally refers to Japan's own deity that was created by combining it with Okuninushi no mikoto of the Shinto religion, such as the statue of Daikokuten (大国天: Daikokuten) enshrined at Kanda Myojin Shrine.
Maha kala has three aspects; namely, those relating to battle, good fortune, and the underworld. As a deity that presides over violations of Buddhist precepts and battles, Maha kala resides in shirin (cemeteries), excels in ongyo (disappearance and concealment) and flying, and devours blood and meat. People believed that they could win a battle by worshipping it. A deity of fortune, Maha kala is enshrined in Indian Temples as an incarnation of Vishnu or Jiten. As a deity of the underworld, he is deemed as the same deity as Enmaten and resides in the tsuka (mound).
Indian Mikkyo/Tibetan Buddhism
Since Mahakala--or in other words, Shiva--was introduced into Mikkyo without modification, Daikokuten was initially depicted in the same manner as Shiva, showing his four hands holding a trident, a staff, a ring, and a rope. Later, however, Brahma and Vishnu were absorbed into Daikokuten (Maha kala) to create a figure with three faces, six arms, and an angry countenance that corresponded to the Trimurti of the Hindu religion (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
In Tibetan Buddhism which succeeded the latter Mikkyo, there is a variety of Daikokuten statues such as Ichimen nihizo (Buddhist statue with one face and two arms), Ichimen shihizo (Buddhist statue with one face and four arms), Ichimen roppizo (Buddhist statue with one face and six arms), Sanmen nihizo (Buddhist statue with three faces and two arms), Sanmen shihizo (Buddhist statue with three faces and four arms) and Sanmen roppizo. Daikokuten eventually began to be depicted as the Dharma guardian who defeats Hinduism and ensures the victory of Buddhism by crushing Shiva and his wife Parvati (or Negasha, in some versions) underfoot--despite the ironic fact that Daikokuten originally evolved from Shiva. In Tibet, Mongolia and Nepal, Daikokuten was worshipped by traders as a god of wealth and in Tibet, a folk belief in Daikokuten as a god of good luck began to spread.
Daikokuten was introduced into Japan together with Mikkyo and was believed to be one of the guardian deities of Buddhism called Tenbu. He was also considered a deity of battle and war, a deity of good fortune, or a deity of the kitchen and dinning room. But the reason many Daikokuten statues in Japan feature fukutokuso (a happy, contented facial expression) is due to the influence of China, where of the three aspects of Mahakala the one most emphasized and worshipped was that of wealth.
Daikokuten was originally expressed as the statue of Ichimen nihi or Sanmen roppi with a blue-black or black body and funnuso (fury). In Gharba-mandala, Daikokuten is depicted as defeating Shiva and his sacred white buffalo, Nandin (in China or Japan, Nandin was incorrectly drawn as a goat or rabbit because a white buffalo was not recognized there) with an angry expression on his face. In the "Daitokuten jinho," believed to be a fake sutra created in Tang-period China, he is characterized as god of both wealth and the kitchen, and is depicted wearing eboshi (the formal cap for court nobles) and hakama with his right fist at his side and his left hand clutching a large bag he is slinging over his left shoulder. Although the height of a standing statue of nihi is normally 1.65 m, this can vary. Statues of such figures were produced until the Kamakura period.
Almost all statues have just one face, but as belief in Daitokuten proliferated throughout Japan, Sanmen (three-faced) Daikokuten, which combine Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten into one body, began to appear. Though uncommon, there also exists statues with funnuso such as the standing statue of Daikokuten enshrined at Kanzeon-ji Temple (Fukuoka Prefecture).
As Daikokuten was introduced together with Mikkyo, it was worshipped by the Shingon and the Tendai Sects. In the Muromachi period, it was also eagerly worshipped in the Nichiren Sect. Incidentally, the contents of the bag symbolizing Daikokuten is said to be seven kinds of treasures.
In Japan, because the daikoku (lit. "great black") from Daikokuten sounded the same as the daikoku (lit. "great land") from the ancient Shinto deity Okuninushi no mikoto (which can also be written "Daikoku no shu"), the distinction between the two blurred, and they were eventually combined. Initially, Daikokuten was worshipped as a deity of destruction and abundant harvest. Later the destructive aspect dropped away to leave only the abundant harvest aspect, which is how Daikokuten, known as "Daikokusama," became the god presiding over food and wealth, and was counted one of the seven Shichifukujin. Starting in the Muromachi period, belief in Daikokuten began to merge with folk belief in "Okuninushi no mikoto," which is why Daikokuten statues with smiling faces started to appear. Beginning in the Edo period, statues of Daikokuten showing him perched atop a bag of rice, perhaps the most well-known type of Daikokuten statue today, began to appear. Nowadays, Daikokuten is usually depicted as a very wealthy man standing on a bag of rice and holding both a fukubukuro (lit. "lucky bag") and an uchidenokuzochi (a magic wand).
Daikokuten is shown with a bag slung over his shoulder is because according to the legend of Inaba no Shirousagi--which marks the god's first appearance in Japanese mythology--Okuninushi no mikoto would carry a bag filled with the personal items of the yasogami (lit. "eighty gods", meaning a large group of deities). Along the same vein, the rat became Daikokuten's divine messenger because of a myth that a rat saved Okuninushi from being burnt to death after the god was tricked by Susanoo (for more information, see the myth of Okuninushi no mikoto's visit to Nenokuni, lit. "root land").
Statues of both Daikokuten and Suserihime no mikoto, his wife, are enshrined as a married couple at Izusan-jinja Shrine.
Daikoku and Ebisu
Although both Daikoku and Ebisu are independent deities of Shichifukujin, they are usually worshipped as a pair in the same way as the pair of Jurojin (deity of longevity) and Fukurokuju (tall headed deity of happiness, wealth and long life). From long ago, Ebisumai (Ebisu dancing) and Daikokumai (Daikoku dancing) have been widely known among various kinds of Kagura (sacred music and dancing performed at shrines). This is believed to be due to the fact that Daikoku is the deity of agriculture that brings about a good harvest and Ebisu is the deity of fishery that brings about a plentiful catch. Daikokuten has also been worshipped as a deity of commerce because the products of agriculture and fishery used to be the main commodities for trading.
In Shinto folk religion, various beliefs exist about kodakara (children) and kozukuri (making babies); under such beliefs, statues of Daikokuten atop a bag of rice (see photograph) are thought to represent the male sex organ. More specifically, folk belief holds that his hat, body, and rice bag represent the tip of the penis, the penis itself, and the scrotum, respectively.
Principal shrines and temples that enshrine Daikokuten
Senso-ji Temple (Taito Ward, Tokyo) Komebitsu Daikoku (Rice box Daikoku)/Asakusa meisho (famous place) Shichifukujin
Hoshaku-ji Temple (Daikoku Tenpo-ji Temple) (Oyamazaki-cho, Otokuni-gun, Kyoto Prefecture)/Oyamazaki Daikokuten/Kyoto rokudaikokuten
Myoen-ji Temple (Kyoto City) (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture) Matsugasaki Daikokuten/Miyako Shichifukujin
Shikimatsunomiya okuninushi-jinja Shrine (Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture) Hinodeokuni/Naniwa Shichifukujin
Shitenno-ji Temple (Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture) Sanmen Daikokuten (three-headed Daikokuten)
Anraku-ji Temple (Gamagori City) (Gamagori City, Aichi Prefecture) Mikawa Shichifukujin
Fumon-ji Temple (Toyohashi City) (Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture) Yoshida Shichifukujin
Fukukai-ji Temple (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture) Yanagihara Daikokuten/Settsu Province, Shozan Hyogo Shichifukujin
Kanda Myojin Shrine (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo)