Central Asia, Pakistan, Taxila region, Gandharan, Kushan period, ca. 3rd century CE. A striking hand-carved grey schist high relief depicting the goddess Hariti dressed in a belted toga and seated on a throne. Adorned with bangles, a collared necklace, a flat-topped tiered tiara, and dangling earrings, the deity holds a pomegranate in her right hand and wheat in her left as she calmly looks outward toward the viewer from almond eyes over a flat nose and small closed mouth. Both of her feet rest below her on a dais decorated with five circles. Deposits of mica in the schist create a beautiful sparkling effect throughout the sculpture. Note the fine attention to drapery of her toga; a classical stylistic quality inherited from Alexander the Great’s conquest of Gandhara in 330 BCE. Hariti’s iconographic likeness to the Greek goddess Tyche via her wheat, pomegranate, and flat topped crown is further indicative of the Greek influence on the region. A rare example of Greco-Buddhist art that demonstrates a strong syncretism between eastern and western traditions. Stand for photography purposes only. Size: 3.75″ L x 1.125″ W x 6.75″ H (9.5 cm x 2.9 cm x 17.1 cm)
According to Buddhist mythology, Hariti had hundreds of children whom she adored. However, in order to feed them, she kidnapped and slaughtered other children. When the grieving mothers asked Buddha to put an end to Hariti’s actions, he abducted her youngest son and hid him under his rice bowl. After a desperate search, Hariti appealed to Buddha, who explained that her suffering was due to the loss of only one of her hundreds of children. He asked her to imagine the immense suffering of the parents who lost their only children. Upon hearing this, Hariti vowed to be a devout protector of children as well as women in childbirth. In return the Buddha gifted her with bodhi which empowered her to counter evil and cure the sick. From that moment on, she ate pomegranates, like the one pictured here, instead of human flesh.