The “Daruma” doll has been highly valued in Japan through the ages as lucky charms that fulfill people’s wishes. The beginnings of the Daruma are said to be an imitation of the founder of Zen, Bodhidharma, in a Zazen seated meditation position. Bodhidharma was born in India, he later became a priest; the 28th generation to take over from the teachings of Buddha, and then he traveled to China.
Despite the many difficulties he encountered there, the indomitable spirit of Bodhidharma persisted. This captured the hearts of the people, and during heavy floods a devotee carved a statue of Bodhidharma, which is currently enshrined at the temple of Shorinzan Darumaji. After the temple opened, to provide relief for farmers hit by famine, the high priest allowed the farmers, as a side job, to make papier mache Daruma (imitations of Bodhidharma) and sell them at festivals, where they quickly caused a sensation.
The passed on prayer used nowadays of “make a wish to a Daruma and if you endeavor it will be fulfilled”, is derived from silk farmers praying for “silkworms to make good cocoons” whilst filling one eye with ink, and when this prayer is fulfilled the remaining eye is filled in with ink. In Japanese the term “get up” is used to refer to the opening up of old silkworn shells, you are praying to the Daruma who stands for the Japanese proverb of
These days, Daruma are made in varous regions of Japan but the vast majority of papier-mache Daruma are made in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, location of Shorinzan Darumaji Temple, as well as the surrounding area, and are known as “Takasaki Daruma”.
There are many theories as to why the Daruma are painted red, but it actually derives from the clothing of Bodhidharma. Red also appears to be the color that was used for charms in ancient times. In modern day, apart from red, many other colors of Daruma have appeared, such as white, yellow and green. Not only do they also vary in size, there is also a white version used for weddings, and there are also ones where you can write on the torso.