Sculpture of Hariti, Ajanta Cave 2, Maharashtra, India
Do not miss the stark and stunning panel of goddess Hariti in Cave 2. Ajanta Caves located in the Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, India is a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO. How to reach Ajanta Caves?
As per ancient Buddhist legend, Hariti was a Yakshini (Yalshas, Yakshinis are divine beings with benevolent and malicious characteristics), also a demoness largely feared as she kidnapped infants to feed her hundreds of children. The bereaved mothers pleaded to Buddha to save them. Buddha hid Hariti's youngest child and a desperate Hariti after having searched everywhere reached Buddha to seek his help.
Buddha helped her understand that her pain and anguish for her missing child was no different than the agony and sadness felt by the parents of infants she and her children had eaten. Hariti then vowed to protect all children, and would now on eat and feed only pomegranates instead of flesh. Following her remorse and repentance, the Buddha blessed Hariti in being a protector not just of unborn children or expectant mothers, but also of Buddhist stupas, viharas, people and morals.
Note - Hariti is not only believed to be protective deity and fertility goddess in Buddhism - but is considered divine in Jainism and Hinduism too. Hariti is also the consort of Panchika Kubera, King of the Yakshas and Lord of Wealth.