In the Mahayana Buddhism one of the four principal Bodhisattvas is
Ksitigarbha. The other three Bodhisattvas are Samantabhadra,
Manjusri and Avalokiteswara. The name Ksitigarbha is explained in
various ways, e.g. gEarth Treasuryh, gEarth Wombh & etc. Ksitigarbha
is known for his responsibility for giving instruction to all beings
in the earth between the death of Gautama Buddha (the historical
Buddha) and the rise of Maitreya Buddha (the future Buddha). He has
also taken the vow of not accepting the Buddhahood until all hells
In Japan Ksitigarbha is often regarded as the Bodhisattva of hell
and as well as the guardian of the children and deity of deceased
children and aborted fetus and known as Jizoo or Ojizoo-sama. As
Jizoo or Ojizoo-sama, he is depicted or delineated as a monk with a
halo around shaved head. He often carries staff for opening the
gates of hell forcefully, also carrying a wish fulfilling jewel.
In Japanese mythology, it is said that the souls of children, who
died before their parents cannot cross the mythical river Sanzu and
proceed to their path of afterlife because they did not have the
enough time and chance to gather any good deeds and also because
they have made their parents suffer. It is said that Jizoo saves
these souls and protect them from the demons.
The images of Jizoo sometimes are seen wearing tiny childrenfs
clothing or with toys put there by grieving parents to help their
lost ones and hoping that Jizoo would specially protect them.
Sometimes the parents also offer thanks to Ojizoo-sama for saving
their children from serious illness. The common features of the
statue of Jizoo or Ojizoo-sama are the baby-like appearance of the
Moreover, Doosojin or Jizoo-sama as the protector of travelers is
kept on the road-side.
Pictures of Ojizoo-sama
Reference: 1) Japanese Mythology By Juliet Piggott, published by The Hamlyn Publishing Group
Ltd. London, 1969.
2) Ph.D. Thesis of the present contributor entitled-gBuddhist
Iconography-A Comparative Study in
India and Outside India (Awarded from University
of Calcutta in 1989)