Archbishop Tenkai, the founder of Kan’ei-ji Temple, built Kan’ei-ji Temple in the 2nd Year of Kanei(1625). Several years later this founder of Kan’ei-ji Temple, in consultation with Katsuktaka Mizunoya, Lord of the Shimodate Castletown and Governor of the Ise district, built an island in Shinobazu-no-ike Pond after the model of Chikubu Island in Lake Biwa. He founded a temple on the island and enshrined an image of Benzaiten(Sarasvati) in it to pray for the peace of the state and for the prosperity and welfare of its people.
Lotuses were planted in the pond. Fishes, waterflows, tortoises, etc. were released into the pond. The priest taught people how to purify their sins by setting the creatures free. It was named “Pond of Release”.
In those days worshippers visited the temple by boat. Later surface transport was replaced by an overland bridge which formed the front approach to the main hall. Teahouses were opened to line the approach, attracting large crowds of worshippers to the temple.
The main hall and other temple buildings, which had survived the Meiji Restoration War, were destroyed in the last Pacific War in March of the 20th Year of Showa(1945). Fortunately the principal image escaped the disaster and was enshrined afresh in the present main hall of Japanese style ferro-concrete construction completed in the 33rd Year of Showa(1958). In the 41st Year of Showa(1966)“Ryu” or “Dragon”, a masterpiece painting by Great Artist Kibo Kodama, and other famous paintings reflecthing the four seasons by great masters under his school were dedicated to the temple to decorate the ceiling of the main hall. The Hall of Mahakala, the God of Wealth, was rebuilt in the 43rd Year of Showa(1968). and the other temple buildings such as the guest hall. the priests’ living quarters, etc. were reconstructed one after another in the 47th Year of Showa(1972), followed by the dedication of the Torii Gate or sacred archway, a related part of Benten-do Temple, which completed the series of the planned postwar reconstruction work.
Benzaiten is an old Indian goddess. She is a holy female god and is considered as symbols of longevity, good fortune, happiness and prosperity. In Japan Benzaiten is believed in as the Goddess of Music and Entertainment.
The image of Benzaiten enshrined in the temple on Shinobazu-no-ike Pond has eight arms, each holding a holy weapon to defeat the Asuras, and is worshipped as the Goddess of Great Love for Salvation and Great Wisdom for Health and Longevity.
The Suvarna Prabhas-Ottamaroja-Sutra teaches that upon listening to this sutra, one will be bestowed by Benzaiten with wonderworking wisdom which helps one attain improvement of skills, spiritual enlightenment, living comfort and longevity.