Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Height: 77.000 cm
Width: 42.000 cm
Depth: 14.000 cm
Gift of Colonel A.C. Walker
Asia OA 1886.6-11.1
Room 33: Asia
Seated grey schist figure of Hariti with children
From Yusufzai, ancient Gandhara, North-West
2nd-3rd century AD
The early Buddhist goddess
Hariti is a popular goddess in early Buddhism. According to myth, she was once a malevolent ogress who had vowed to eat all the babies in ancient Rajgir. On hearing the complaints of the residents of this city, the Buddha hid one of Hariti's children. Hariti was grief-stricken and, understanding the suffering that she had caused, converted to Buddhism. She was then accepted as a Buddhist goddess, particularly as a protectress of children. She is often found with her consort, Pancika. Together, they are associated with wealth and productivity.
In this image, Hariti is shown in an extremely thin, pleated tunic. She wears a flat torque, disc shaped earrings, a wreath on her head, bracelets, anklets and a beaded necklace which falls between her breasts. A nude child lying in her lap reaches for this necklace. A diminutive figure sits between her feet and on either side of her are six other children, which highlight her role as the goddess who watches over children.
W. Zwalf, A catalogue of the Gandhara sc, 2 vols. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)