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From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Hārītī (Avestan Harauhuti), is an Iranic ogress and Bactrian (Peshawari) mythological figure who was later transformed into a symbol for the protection of children, easy delivery, happy child rearing and parenting, harmony between husband and wife, love, and the well-being and safety of the family. Women without children sometimes prayed to her to help them become pregnant.

Unlike her Indian cognante Saraswati ( the Sanskrit version of the Avestan word Harauhuti both words meaning the Indus River), who was to the Indians, a goddess, Hariti to the Iranic Gandharans was originally a cannibalistic daeva or demon.

Bactrian mythology describes Hariti as having hundreds of children whom she loved and doted upon but to feed them, she abducted and killed the children of others.

With the arrival of Buddhism to Gandhara from across the Indus River, this mythology takes a new twist.

That is, the bereaved mothers of Hariti's victims begin to plead to Śākyamuni Buddha to save them.

Śākyamuni steals Aiji, youngest of Hariti's sons, and hides him under his rice bowl. Hariti desperately searches for her missing son throughout the universe.

Finally, she pleads with Shakyamuni for help.

The Shakyamuni Buddha then points out that she is suffering because she has lost one of hundreds of her own children, and asks her if she could imagine the suffering of those parents whose only child she has devoured.

Hariti replies contritely that their suffering must be many times greater than hers, and vows to protect all children. She repents, converts to Buddhism and from then on, only feeds upon pomegranates as a substitute for children's flesh.

So after the arrival of Buddhism in Gandhara, Hariti is transformed from an Iranic demon to the Buddhist figure of easy birthing as well as that of protection and parenting of children.

More likely though, the alteration in the story of Hariti and her successful conversion to Buddhism seems to be an early strategy with which to convert the Iranic Gandharans from Zoroastrianism, and Animism to Buddhism.


And so the legend of Hariti, though originally Iranic in origin, became incorporated into Buddhist lore after the arrival of Buddhism to Bactria, and with it, spread to the far reaches of east Asian lands such as China, and then Japan; a country where the Gandharan Hariti is today known as Kishimojin.

More recent stories of East Asian origin also describe Hariti as an aspect of Kannon. In actuality, Hariti appears to be the progenitor of the pre-Zoroastrian Iranic goddess Hurvatat.

Hārīti though Iranic in origin, has also been linked (falsely), to the Greek goddess Tyche by Eurocentrist historians. Her origin sometimes, is also falsely depicted as "hindu",

either by Indocentrist historians or by those historians who do not understand that her incorporation into Buddhist lore was a much later development which was most likely a conversion-to-Buddhism strategy designed by Buddhist missionaries for the majority Zoroastrian and animist Gandharans.

Later additions to this 'Buddhist' lore also describe Pancika who fathers her children, as her loyal consort.

He is one of the 28 Yakṣa generals in the army of Vaiśravaṇa (Bishamonten).

The legend of Hariti also points towards the immense Bactrian contribution to Buddhist Mythology which spread by way of Northern and Western Pakistan into Tibet (and later throughout Asia) .

In appearance, Hariti is often depicted as holding a cornucopia and being surrounded by children.

More often, she is dressed in Iranic toga-like attire. This attire is also seen on Parthian relief in Iran.

Hariti is also compared to

Japanese painting of Kishimojin from the Kamakura period.