Tōdai-ji, is a Buddhist temple complex located in the city of Nara, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall, houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu. Todaiji was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan.
In 743, Emperor Shomu issued a law that the people should make a Buddha to protect themselves. He believed in Buddha’s power could help the people. The Buddha was completed in 751, having consumed most of Japan’s bronze production for several years and leaving the country almost bankrupt. The statue has been recast several times since for various reasons including earthquake damage.
Komoku-ten statue at Todai-ji temple, Japan: one of the four guardians in Buddhism and Komoku-ten is the “Guardian of the West”. This statue features Komoku-ten one of the four “Guardian Kings”. These are deities, protectors of Buddhism, who guard each of the four directions of the compass (north, south, east, and west) from harmful and dangerous influences. They usually appear in temple sculptures surrounding and protecting a central Buddha image. The statues are life-size, and made of painted clay. Komoku-ten, Guardian of the West, typically holds an ink-brush and sutra-scroll, symbolizing the power of the sutras (Buddhist scriptures) to save all sentient beings; this symbolism refers to Amida Buddha, the Buddha of the West, into whose paradise the believers in Amida will be reborn; Amida’s scripture is the Lotus Sutra.
Todajji’s main temple building, the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall), is said to be the largest wooden building in the world. This is especially impressive in light of the fact that the present reconstruction (from 1692) is only two thirds of the original temple’s size.
The original complex also contained two 100-meter-high pagodas, probably the tallest buildings in the world at the time, but these were destroyed by earthquake.
Todaiji is famous for housing Japan’s largest Buddha statue. It depicts the Buddha Vairocana and, like the one at Kamakura, is commonly known as the Daibutsu (Great Buddha). The Daibutsu is made of copper and bronze, weighs 250 tons and stands 30 meters tall. His intricate hairstyle is made of 966 bronze balls.
Also of interest in the Daibutsuden are the rear support pillars, which have holes through the bottom. Popular belief has it that if one is successful in squeezing through one of these “healing pillars,” he or she is guaranteed a place in Heaven.
Outside the Daibutsuden at the bottom of the steps, don’t miss the bronze Octagonal Lantern, one of the oldest treasures in Todaiji — it dates from the original 8th-century temple. The lantern’s support post is inscribed with a Buddhist text on the merits of lighting lanterns.