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A Female Ogre Who Was Ordained a Goddess by Lord Buddha

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places.

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Introduction

All religions have interesting tales that both captivate and intrigue. One such tale was related to me is concerning a Goddess named Hariti. I came to know that the Goddess Hariti was in her younger days an ogress who devoured children as a part of her staple diet. Later she was elevated to the status of a Goddess. This is the intriguing part as no religion has such a tale where a child devourer is elevated to the rank of an exalted Goddess. The fact is that Hariti is one of the important goddesses in Buddhism. She is known by several names like Kishimojin in Japanese. In Japanese Buddhism, Kishimojin is venerated both as a protector deity but also as a female who brings unhappiness to children.

As per mythology Hariti, Buddhist Deity is a female divinity who was a Yakshini of Rajagriha when Buddha was dwelling there. She was married to Panchika a Yaksha general of the Gandhara region.

Legend tells us that the Lord Buddha met the ogress. He wished to reform her and accordingly hid one of her children.

Unable to locate her missing child Hariti was in great anguish. She realized what children mean to other mothers and accordingly gave up her cannibalistic approach as a devourer of children. Thus the Buddha by a simple ploy brought the Ogress to the path of righteousness. As a reward for giving up her nefarious activities, Buddha conferred on her the title of a goddess. The Buddha also ordained that she be made a protector of the Sangha (an assemblage of people) as well as the protector of all Buddhist temples and pagodas.


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a-female-ogre-who-was-ordained-a-goddess-by-lord-buddha

Closeness to Hinduism

As in all cases of Mythology, there is not much historical evidence of the existence of the Goddess Hariti. The question arises as to how this got ingrained in Buddhist thought. Buddhism and Hinduism have a lot in common and there is a chance that the goddess Hariti was originally part of Hindu thought. An examination of the Hindu Vedic and Puranic books reveals that they do mention the Goddess Hariti.

A fact that has emerged recently is that from Tayapur in Mathura( presently in Utter Pradesh), a murti ( statue) of Hariti was found where she is depicted with an infant on her lap and four children below her feet. There are also a group of children seen playing on the pedestal. Interestingly this statute was worshipped by the villagers as Gandhari, the mother of Kauravas. This puts her age beyond the time of Buddha and points to its derivative from Hindu thought. Gandhari is mentioned in the Mahabharta which was written around 4000-5000 BC. Buddha appeared only about 500 BC.

The close relationship of Buddhism and Hinduism is thus revealed and as is well known the Buddha is recognized as an (incarnation) of the Hindu God Vishnu. He is the 9th Avatar of Vishnu. the 7th and 8th being Lord Krishna and the God Ram.


Hariti in Buddhist Thought


As per legend once the Buddha had decreed Hariti as a Goddess she became an indispensable part of Buddhist thought and ritual. As per early Buddhist thought, Hariti was a Yakshinior a female ogre. Legend tells us, that this ogress, had started this nefarious activity only after she had lost her child. She was also the beloved of the Lord of Wealth and opulence, Panchika Kubera, who was the king of the Yakshas.

King Ashoka the great was instrumental in the spread of Buddhism, which became the state religion. Hariti became the Mother-Goddess of the entire sub-continent during this period which lasted from the first century BC to the 2nd century AD. After that period the Brahmin cult superseded Buddhism which vanished from the face of India.<br /> Hariti as a goddess has her image embellished with gold and silver ornaments. The image of the Goddess Hariti decorated with ornate jewelry is found in almost all Buddhist temples. The goddess had a changed appearance and name as the Buddhist religion spread overseas to distant lands like China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, and Central Asian regions.

The Goddess Hariti is worshipped in all forms of Buddhism including Mahayana, Santayana, and Vajrayana traditions. The fact is that Buddhism remained supreme in India for a very short time and was soon overtaken by the Brahmin cult. But the Goddess Hariti, though banished from Indian religious thought, found worshipers in faraway lands like Japan and Sri Lanka that follow Buddhism.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

DreamerMeg, thank you for sparing time and commenting.All the 4 religions Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism ,and Jainism are all inter related.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on December 16, 2020:

I did not know that Hinduism and Buddhism were related. Interesting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Thank you Manatitaji for your valued observation.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Thank you Tom for commenting. Buddhism vanished in India because of the revival of Brahminism. Islamic invaders came much later.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Thank you, Tom, Buddhism came up against Brahminism and lost. Buddha is recognized as an Avatar.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Frankly, I have been to Thailand and even now I go there as it is part of my beat and I can't help feeling how similar Buddhism is to Hinduism. I found in Bangkok the maximum number of small statues of Lord Ganesh being sold.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Thank you John for sparing time and commenting

manatita44 from london on December 16, 2020:

Yes. I know. Thry knew of each other. Spiritual Masters in their own right, do not usually mix. It's a bit like saying two lions do not stay in the same den. There were subtle differences in the way they taught. Scriptures are the revelations and manifestation of realised Beings. Not the other way around.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2020:

This was a very interesting account, MG, and how an ogre and devourer of children was transformed into a goddess. Thank you for sharing.

tom on December 16, 2020:

shankaracharya converted buddhists back to hinduism,buddha was worshipped as son of kali and avatar vishnu.ambedkar and his wife converted to buddhism

tom on December 16, 2020:

buddhism declined in india due to islamic invasions and corruption.ashoka and kaniskha promoted buddhism

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Chitra, sweet of you to have commented.I am convinced that Buddhism is only an offshoot of Hinduism.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Thank you Manatitaji, nice reading your comment. It should also be noted that Buddha did not denounce the Vedas or anything connected with Hindu thought. The major plank of rebirth and reincarnation adopted by Buddha is the core of Hindu philosophy. An interesting fact on which I must write is that Mahavir the founder of Jainism also lived just about 500 miles away from Buddha during the same period.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Dear Ram Avatar, thank you. Yes, I was aware of what you mention and am glad you have brought it out.

Ram Avatar on December 16, 2020:

Thank you very much for such a lovely article. I have done some research on the subject. Hārītī shows similarities to the Greek goddess Tyche and may have been transmitted to East Asia through the influence of Greco-Buddhism. In Greek art, Tyche was depicted in the presence of children, carrying a cornucopia (horn of plenty), an emblematic gubernaculum (ship's rudder), and the wheel of fortune.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 16, 2020:

Interesting story M G Singh Ji. I wasn’t aware of Hariti, though I have read similar stories in our religious books.

Thank you for sharing.

manatita44 from london on December 16, 2020:

Lovely story and yes, there are similarities between the two faiths.

I know a similar story a man was evil but it was the King that hid his son. As with Hariti, it had a devstating effect on him and he changed his ways and became a seeker ... a monk.

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