Friday, October 15, 2010

The mother of all goddesses

In a fascinating recounting of the story of Hariti, a child-devourer whom the Buddha brought to the path of Righteousness, and who then went on to become one of Buddhism’s — and
From Ogress to Goddess: Hariti
Madhurika K Maheshwari
IIRNS Publications
Rs3,000; pp 244
India’s — foremost Mother Goddesses, Madhurika K. Maheshwari’s From Ogress to Goddess — Hariti — A Buddhist Deity focuses on a deity that once enjoyed more prominence in the Indian subcontinent and beyond than it does today. Maheshwari’s study is very readable and wide-ranging, with its focus being the erstwhile prominent deity.

According to early Buddhist tradition, Hariti the Yakshini (yakshas and yakshinis being divine beings with benevolent and malevolent aspects), was an ogress who also became the city of Rajgriha’s protector demi-goddess, changed her wicked propensity for devouring children after Gautama Buddha helped her understand that her anguish for her missing child was no different than the sorrow felt by the parents of children she had eaten. Following her repentance, the Buddha raised Hariti to a divine status, making her protector not just of children and expectant mothers, but also of the Buddhist Sangha and its stupas, viharas, monastery-structures, people and morals.

Hariti became the predominant Mother-Goddess in India from about circa 1st century BC to 1st century AD and retained her relevance over the centuries, often becoming incorporated with local sub-regional goddesses, and with goddesses called upon to protect children from disease, death and disaster. It may be noted that Hariti became not just a protective deity and  fertility goddess — in common with other yakshinis in Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism — but she was also the consort of Panchika Kubera, king of the Yakshas and Lord of Wealth.

Full report here Hindustan Times

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