15th March 2023, Krishna Ashtmi in the month Chaitra is known as Sheetala Ashtmi, or the day of Sheetala Mata or Shitala Devi, an incarnation of divine goddess Parvati.
Sheetla Mata, also known as Mata Sheetla, is a Hindu goddess who is widely worshipped in North India, especially in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. She is considered to be the goddess of health, diseases, and epidemics. Her name, 'Sheetla', is derived from the Sanskrit word 'sheetal', which means 'cool' or 'calm'. The goddess is depicted as a beautiful woman riding a donkey, holding a broom and a winnowing fan in her hands. Here we explore the history, significance, and worship of Sheetla Mata.
On this day, the fire is not lit in the kitchen and people eat fried food cooked the day before. Then from this day onwards, people are supposed to eat only freshly made food and avoid eating old food from yesterday, due to the bacteria in the food that comes due to the hot climate.
The history of Sheetla Mata dates back to the Vedic era, which was approximately between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. It is believed that the goddess was first worshipped by the nomadic tribes who lived in the northern regions of India. According to Hindu mythology, Sheetla Mata was the daughter of Rishi (sage) Dadhichi and was married to Lord Shiva. She is also believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Durga, who took this form to rid the world of diseases and epidemics.
The worship of Sheetla Mata is an important part of Hindu culture in North India. Her festival, known as Sheetla Ashtami, is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion by people in various parts of the country. It usually falls in the month of March or April, which is also the time when people are more susceptible to diseases due to the changing weather conditions. During this festival, devotees offer prayers to the goddess and seek her blessings for good health and protection from diseases.
One of the unique aspects of Sheetla Mata's worship is that it is primarily done by women. Women, especially mothers, worship the goddess and seek her blessings for the health and well-being of their families. The goddess is also considered to be the protector of children and is often worshipped to protect them from diseases and illnesses.
The significance of Sheetla Mata's worship can be understood in the context of the prevailing health conditions in India. Historically, India has faced several epidemics and pandemics, including smallpox, cholera, and more recently, COVID-19. In such situations, the worship of Sheetla Mata assumes even greater significance as people seek her blessings and protection from diseases.
The goddess's association with diseases and epidemics reflects the importance of health in Indian society and the need to seek divine intervention in times of crisis.
Also see: Shitala Devi