Daruma doll

Daruma (dharma) doll is a round Japanese doll. It represents the Indian monk Bodhidharma. He was the founder of Zen Buddhism. This doll was primarily made as a toy (“omocha”), but in real life of many Japanese people daruma is a good luck charm and symbol of someone who never gives up.

It is believed that the Daruma doll originated from the Daruma-dera (Temple of Daruma) in the city of Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. This city, located north of Tokyo, also has its Daruma Doll Festival (“daruma-ichi”). It is held on the 6th and 7th of January. Many visitors use the occasion to buy their new Daruma dolls.

Daruma doll
Daruma doll

Colour, doll's shape, eyes and facial hair have symbolic meaning. Daruma doll is usually made of papier-mâché. It is hollow. If inclined its special round shape enables it to always return to an upright position. This characteristic symbolizes the ability of someone to recover from some trouble. The Japanese have a saying "Nanakorobi Yaoki" or “seven times down, eight times up”.

The doll can appear in many colours, but red one is the most common. Nobody is sure why the red is so popular. Some believe that Bodhidharma wore red clothes. Eyes on this doll are big, round and white. Traditionally person fills one day when he or she sets a goal. The other eyes is filled when the goal is achieved.

The symbolism of facial hair on Daruma doll is connected with the crane and the tortoise. These animals are symbols of longevity. The Japanese say "The crane lives 1000 years, the tortoise 10,000 years”. That is why it can be seen that the eyebrows have the shape of the crane. On the other side the cheek hair is similar to the tortoise's shell.

After New Year's Day people bring their Daruma dolls to the temple where they have been bought. There they are burned in a special ceremony known as Daruma Kuyo. The most famous places for the ceremony of this kind are the Nishi-Arai Daishi Temple (Tokyo) and the Dairyu-ji Temple (Gifu). The next Daruma Kuyo ceremony in the Nishi-Arai Daishi Temple will be held on the 16th and 17th of February, 2013.

Daruma Kuyo ceremony
Daruma Kuyo ceremony

Daruma doll has the male monk in its origin. Still there are also female Daruma dolls. They are the Princess Daruma (“hime daruma”) and Lady Daruma (“onna daruma”). Daruma is important for kids too. The Japanese version of the snowman is called Yukidaruma (“snow daruma”).