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Hariti, Buddist Patron Goddess of Little Children

"The Japanese Buddhist patron goddess of little children. Her name means 'mother goddess of the demons' and she was originally a monstrous demon from India (called Hariti). She abducted little children and devoured them, until the great Buddha converted her. Now she represents the Buddha's appeal to compassion, and his devotion to the welfare of the weak. Kishimojin is portrayed as a mother suckling her baby, and holding a pomegranate in her hand (the symbol of love and feminine fertility). She is also called Karitei-mo."

According to Iranian Gandharan legend, Hariti had hundreds of children whom she loved and treated affectionately. In order to feed them, she kidnapped and killed the children of other mothers.

Then all the mothers appealed to Shakyamuni Buddha, asking him to help prevent children from the same fate.

So Śākyamuni steals Aiji, youngest of Hariti's sons by hiding him beneath his rice bowl. Desperately Hariti searches for her missing son throughout the universe.

Finally, she asks Shakyamuni for help. The Buddha then reploess "Hariti, you are suffering because you have lost one of hundreds of your own children. Could you could imagine the suffering of those parents whose only child you have devoured?"

Hariti replies contritely, "Their suffering must be many times greater than mine! Thus will I protect all children."

Repenting thusly, she converts to Buddhism. From that moment on, Hariti only eats pomegranates instead of children's flesh.

Once an Iranic demon, she becomes the Buddhist goddess of easy birthing, and protection and parenting of children.

As well, Hariti is mentioned in Journey to the West.

Originally posted: October 6, 2003 0224H
Update posted: March 8, 0329H

"Kishimo-jin." Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online.

[Accessed March 08, 2013].


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