Daruma – the ‘Dharma’ doll

Those of you who have been to Japan must have seen this doll several times – they are sold at omiyage (souvenir) shops outside various temples, shrines and other popular tourist destinations around Japan and onlookers are often fascinated by the peculiar face paint and colors of the doll.

 I too was a bit fascinated by the shape and color of the doll initially but never ever thought of buying one. After all, there are much more popular omiyage that one can buy at such stores – who would want to buy a doll depicting a bearded man with no hands and legs…or at least that is what I thought…
Day 13: Ожидание



Well …i was wrong. I realized that when I got one as a gift from one of my Japanese family friends when I was about to finish my training in Japan and had been been struggling a bit to find my first job. My friend gave it to me saying that the doll was for good luck and that he and his family hoped that I get whatever it is that I wished for. He said he had been a little apprehensive about whether I would like the gift or not but he and his wife could not think of a more appropriate gift for me at that time. It was then he told me about the significance of the doll and all that it stands for…

The doll is called Daruma (also called Dharma) and was modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism (that is where the name comes from), he said. It is considered as a symbol of good luck and is thus a popular gift given for encouragement. It also symbolizes self discipline and perseverance.
When giving the doll to me, he asked me to keep it on the table and try tilting it over….i did as he said and tried to tilt it over a couple of times – but the doll ‘stood’ back upright every time…see, that is how it is built. It is completely hollow from inside but has a weight at the bottom..so it will always return to its original position even if it is tilted or knocked over – thus teaching us perseverance and encouraging us to overcome our adversities..it also symbolizes our recovery from misfortunes ..and that is exactly what my family and I wish for you :). I was overwhelmed.
If you have ever noticed, it usually comes with big round eyes that are blank. The idea is that once you buy the doll or receive it as a gift, you paint one of the eyes black and make a wish.Once your wish comes true or you achieve whatever you wanted to, you paint the second eye black too….I painted one eye black on the same day and painted the other one black when I got my first job…:) and thought of my friend back in Tokyo (I had returned to India after finishing my training) I still have it with me and every time I see it, it brings back fond memories…
So for all my friends in Japan, now that you understand what it is all about, the next time you want to wish somebody luck, try giving a Daruma doll as a gift…:) I am sure it will be well appreciated by whosoever receives it…at least when you tell what it is all about…..
Note: The doll has many legends associated with it and I found a very good link that describes the history and significance of the doll in great detail in case you want to read about it more…

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