The fire of Omizutori ceremony.
Armed with torches, the monks run on the heights of the Great Buddha hall.
Anyone who receives a spark is seen protected from misfortune and evil for the coming year.
A ceremony that flows from the source
For over 1 200 years, Todaiji has been celebrating the return of spring by flamboyant purification ceremonies that end in a grand finale with the soothing water.
Every year, from March 1st to 14th, the traditional spring cleaning takes place. The Kannon, aptly named bodhisattva of mercy, holds a hearing for the monks of the temple who come to confess. This rite, the Shuni-e, has been held since the year 752 and since then the monks also continue to pray to the statue with eleven faces, adjacent to the Great Buddha, for peace in the world.
Following this benevolent parade, an exorcism also takes place every evening in the outer galleries of Todaiji. At sunset, the monks leave their meditation and practice another ancient ritual, the Otaimatsu. Armed with torches, they run for twenty minutes on the heights of the Great Buddha hall waving their arms frantically. Anyone who receives a spark will be protected from misfortune and evil for the coming year.
But the festival's highlight is yet to come. On the night of March 12th to 13th, at around two in the morning, the Omizutori ceremony takes place in what is almost clandestinity. The monks, the chosen ones, draw sacred water from the secret wells of the temple, which spring once in the year, and make another offering to Kannon, as if her were thirsty after listening to so many prayers and bad doings.
But don't worry, it is a privilege for bodhisattva in Buddhism. After having watered the pious lady, the patient visitors who have come for the occasion also have the right to dip their lips in the in the holy water with healing powers. After seeing sparks and quenching your thirst, it is time to look up to see the cherry trees the first flowers of the year.