Daruma Doll (Daruman)

An image of Daruma, or Bodhidharma (Daruma is short for Bodai Daruma, the Japanese rendering of the name), the founder of Zen Buddhism (Chan Buddhism), used throughout Japan as good luck talismans. The round shape of the dolls reflect an old legend: as the story goes, Daruma achieved Satori (enlightenment) after meditating in a cave for many years without moving. As a result, his arms and legs atrophied, accounting for the rounded appearance of the doll. He is also supposed to have cut off his eyelids off in frustration after dozing off during meditation, which is why so many portraits of the saint depict him with large, staring eyes.

Daruman dolls are usually made of paper mache, weighted on the bottom so they always stand up, even when pushed- symbolic of Bodhidharma’s persistence in meditation. Daruman figures are a common New Year tradition in Japan, where they are used to aid one in achieving goals. Daruman figures are sold without eyes- when a new doll is brought home, it is customary to color an eye with a black marker. When one’s goal is reached, or a resolution fulfilled, the other eye is colored in, and the figure is usually returned to a shrine and burnt. Some buy a larger doll with each fulfilled wish, beginning with a very small doll and working up.


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