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.
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.
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.
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.
Hariti is also compared to
- Kangimo (Japanese: 歓喜母 "Bringer of happiness)
- Karitei (Japanese: 訶利帝, Shingon name)
- Kariteimo (Japanese: 訶梨帝母, another Shingon name)
- Kishimojin/Kishibojin (Japanese: 鬼子母神)
- Koyasu Kishibojin (Japanese: 子安鬼子母神 "Giver of Children and Easy Delivery")