Kishimojin (Goddess of Children) (鬼子母神)
Kishimojin' or 'Kishibojin' (haaritii in Sanskrit, Goddess of Children) is a yasha (yaksha in Sanskrit, Buddhist deity sometimes depicted as a demonic warrior) guarding Buddhism and a goddess.
She is also called 'Kariteimo' which is a transcription of her name in Sanskrit 'Haaritii.'
Her Sanmayagyo (things for representing Buddha) is Kichijo-ka (pomegranate fruit which represents fertility and productiveness for having a lot of seeds). Her shuji is huuM (shuji [種子 or 種字] is one syllable word for representing Bodhisattva, which is a distinctive idea of Esoteric Buddhism).
She was the wife of Hanshika (Panchika), a warrior who served a yasha, Bishamonten (Vaisravana), and the mother of 500 children (in some materials it is written as '1,000 children' or '10,000 children'). In the past she always caught others' children and ate them, so Buddha hid her youngest and favorite child Ainuru (Pingara) to let her know other mothers' suffering to lose a child and made her believe Buddhism. After that she became Goho-zenjin (good deity keeping dharma) of Buddhism and a guardian deity of children and easy delivery. She is also regarded as a deity preventing robbery.
In India she had been worshiped especially as a goddess of pregnancy, easy delivery and raising children. In Japan, as Esoteric Buddhism spread, people learnt Kariteimo-ho (a method for following Kariteimo [Kishimojin]) holding Kishimojin as the main deity for children's good health and happiness, and court nobles of the upper class not only learnt Kariteimo-ho but also enshrined the statues of Kariteimo for easy birth. In Hokke-kyo (Saddharmapundariika-sutra or the Lotus Sutra), Kishimojin, together with Jurasetsunyo (ten female rakshasas or ten demonesses), swears to guard the believers of Hokke-kyo and to punish the people who prevent 'guzu' (or 'gutsu,' the spread) of the beliefs in Hokke-kyo. For this reason, Nichiren included the name of Kishimojin in Hokke Mandala (the Lotus Mandala) which was formed of letters, and described that Kishimojin was the mother of Jurasetsunyo. This led to the independent expression of Kishimojin as a guardian deity of Hokke-kyo believers through the process of making statues and pictures of the deities in Hokke Mandala.
Her figure had been made imitating Tennyo (celestial maiden) with a child (regarded as her youngest child, Ainuru) in her arms and Kichijo-ka in her right hand. Someone say that she has Kichijo-ka because it tastes like human being's flesh, however that is a fiction added in later years.
Temples which enshrine Kishimojin
Kishimojin is often enshrined in temples of the Nichiren sect and the Hokke sect as a guardian deity of Hokke-kyo. Among many statues of Kishimojin in Japan, especially famous Kishimojin are the one known by the phrase 'Osore Iriya no Kishimojin' enshrined in Shingen-ji Temple (Iriya, Taito Ward, Tokyo), the one of Homyo-ji Temple (Zoshigaya, Toshima Ward, Tokyo), and the one of Onjuin Temple (Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture). The festival day is the days including 8 (8th, 18th and 28th) every month. In addition, some temples hold grand festival for Kishimojin and the anniversary of their founder's death at the same time. Moreover, some temples use the letter of 'ki' (鬼) of 'Kishimojin' (鬼子母神)without the first stroke. This is because Kishimojin changed her mind by Buddha's teaching and took off her horn.
In some zatsugeki (zaju, Chinese classical play) adapted from "Saiyuki" (Xiyouji, Journey to the West) including "Kishibo Keihatsu-ki" (Guizumu Qibo-ji, Kishimojin Holds a Bowl) and the scene of 'Kibo Kie' (Guimu Guiyi, Kishimojin Becomes a Believer) in the 12th act of "Saiten Shukyo" (Xitian Qujing, Obtaining Sutras in the West) written by Wu Changling, after Ainuru captures Sanzo-hoshi (Sanzang fashi, Priest Xuan Zang), Kishimojin appears and obeys Buddha. However, in "Saiyuki" written after the Ming dynasty, Kishimojin appears only once in the scene of Kogaiji (Honghaier) to tell a message to Kannon Bodhisattva.