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Thursday, October 1, 2020

tsunami 522 years ago ! destroyed building of Great Buddha at Kōtoku-in in Kamakura

Kamakura is an important place, this place  was designated as a city in 1939.  It has a long history as Kamakura was the de facto capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333 as the seat of the Kamakura Shogunate, and became the nation's most populous settlement from 1200 to 1300 during the Kamakura period. Kamakura is a popular domestic tourist destination in Japan as a coastal city with a high number of seasonal festivals, as well as ancient Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples.

The term "tsunami" is a borrowing from the Japanese tsunami 津波, meaning "harbour wave".   Tsunami, now a household name,  is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances) above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves, which are generated by wind, or tides, which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.

The word is now a commoner …. Around a decade or two ago – not many here knew its pronunciation nor its meaning … all that changed on that Black Sunday of 2004  !! – perhaps it occurred earlier too but not known by that name – perhaps a similar thing only undid Dhanushkodi – and earlier in 1930s ….    Tsunami waves do not resemble normal sea waves, because their wavelength is far longer.

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, 26th  December 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

Kōtoku-in  is a Buddhist temple of the Jōdo-shū sect, in the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Its mountain name is Taiizan  and its common temple name is Shōjōsen-ji !  The temple is renowned for The Great Buddha of Kamakura, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amitābha, which is one of the most famous icons of Japan. It is also a designated National Treasure, and one of the twenty-two historic sites included in Kamakura's proposal for inclusion in UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. 

Centuries ago,  occurred  Nankai earthquake  off the coast of Nankaidō, Japan, at about 08:00 local time on 20 September 1498.  It had a magnitude estimated at 8.6 Ms and triggered a large tsunami. The death toll associated with this event is uncertain, but between 5,000 and 41,000 casualties were reported. The tsunami caused by the Meiō Nankaidō earthquake washed away the building housing the statue of the Great Buddha at Kōtoku-in in Kamakura, although the statue itself remained intact.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura,  is a massive bronze statue of Amitābha, located on the temple grounds. Including the base, it measures 13.35 metres (43.8 ft) tall and weighs approximately 93 tonnes (103 tons).   According to temple records, the statue dates from around 1252, during the Kamakura period, which it is named after.  The statue is hollow, and visitors can view the interior. Many visitors have left graffiti on the inside of the statue.  At one time, there were thirty-two bronze lotus petals at the base of the statue, but only four remain, and they are no longer in place.

The current bronze statue was preceded by a giant wooden Buddha, which was completed in 1243 after ten years of continuous labor, the funds having been raised by Lady Inada no Tsubone and the Buddhist priest Jōkō of Tōtōmi. That wooden statue was damaged by a storm in 1248, and the hall containing it was destroyed, so  The hall was destroyed by a storm in 1334, was rebuilt, was damaged by yet another storm in 1369, and was rebuilt yet again. The last building housing the statue was washed away in the tsunami resulting from the Nankai earthquake of 20 September 1498, since then, the Great Buddha has stood in the open air.

PS 1 :  Amitābha is a celestial buddha according to the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism.   In Vajrayana Buddhism, Amitābha is known for his longevity attribute, magnetising red fire element, the aggregate of discernment, pure perception and the deep awareness of emptiness of phenomena.

PS 2:  The Kamakura shogunate   was the feudal military government of Japan during the Kamakura period from 1185 to 1333. It was  established by Minamoto no Yoritomo after victory in the Genpei War and appointing himself as Shōgun.   The Kamakura shogunate saw the Jōkyū War in 1221 and the Mongol invasions of Japan under Kublai Khan in 1274 and 1281. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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