Hariti – Bringer of Happiness
Hariti once ate human babies but has now reformed, becoming their guardian. Rather than stealing children, Hariti now assists couples having difficulty conceiving. Originally a disease spirit, Hariti’s conversion to Buddhism transformed her into a benevolent deity of health and conception.
Hariti was the mother of five hundred Demons whom she fed daily on a diet of human babies. People complained to the Buddha, who came to their assistance by seizing Hariti’s youngest son and hiding him under a begging bowl. In despair, Hariti searched the world for her child. Advised to inquire of the Buddha, he told her, “You have five hundred sons. Yet you are desolate over the loss of one and search everywhere for him. Humans often have only one child, yet you take them.” Hariti got the message. She instantly converted and reformed. Her son was returned. Fearing that hunger might make her revert to her old habits, the Buddha promised her that in all monasteries, part of the monks’ food would daily be reserved for her and her children. Buddha encouraged Hariti to bite into pomegranates, which give the illusion of blood rather than babies. Hariti is invoked for fertility and to heal infertility.
• She is invoked to heal ailing children and protect them from epidemics.
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Heli-di (China); Karitei-Mo; Kishimojin (Japan) Yid’prog-ma (Tibet)
Hariti is depicted carrying a child or surrounded by children; India’s Ajanta Caves feature depictions of Hariti. These monastery caves in the northwest Deccan region were hand-hewn from solid rock. Hariti is featured in Cave 2, dating from the sixth century CE. Her legend is retold through sculpted friezes. Hariti’s image also appears in Cave 7 in Aurangabad, the Buddhist caves carved out of the Sahyadri range.
Pomegranate, flywhisk, cornucopia, the flower of happiness
Pancika, commander of the Yaksha army (he is sometimes identified with Jambhala)
Once worshipped throughout a wide swathe of the Buddhist world, Hariti remains actively venerated in Nepal. She has a shrine near the Monkey Temple in Katmandu, where she is worshipped as the Spirit of Smallpox and Fertility.
Cooked rice, water, betel nuts, incense; pomegranates; in China, women seeking children offer Hariti paper shoes.
- Bon Spirits
- Palden Lhamo
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.