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IMAGE: Nigatsu-dō (drawing by Fujishima Takeji, 1867-1943)
Nigatsu-dō (二月堂, "The Hall of the Second Month") is one of the important structures of Tōdai-ji, a temple in Nara. Nigatsu-dō is located to the east of the Great Buddha Hall, on the hillside of Mount Wakakusa. It includes several other buildings in addition to the specific hall named Nigatsu-dō, thus comprising its own sub-complex within Tōdai-ji.
Nigatsu-dō was founded by a monk by the name of Sanetada in 752, but the Buddhist monk Jitchu, a pupil of Rōben, later introduced a repentance service dedicated to the image of the eleven-faced Bodhisattva, Kannon in 760. It has taken place as an annual rite since 760 without any break. The service has come to be known as Shuni-e, as it was held in the second month of the traditional lunisolar calendar. At present, it starts on 1 March and ends on the 15th of the month. Omizutori, which means taking sacred water, has become the popular name of the ceremony.
While the first Shuni-e service is said to have been held by Jichu in another temple in 752, the original construction of Nigatsu-dō hall is estimated to have completed only somewhere between 756 and 772. Nigatsu-dō was destroyed in 1667 due to a fire.
After fire destroyed the main temple structure, work on rebuilding Nigatsu-dō at Nara commenced.
Re-construction of Nigatsu-do is completed in 1669. In 1944, it was chosen by Japan as one of the most important cultural aspects of the country.