Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shitala Mata; a Hindu goddess widely worshipped in North India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan as the pox-goddess, The most important festival dedicated to Shitala Mata, Sheetala Ashtami, Video of Shitla Mata Aarti - Amarnath Pujari


 Shitala Mata (Sheetala Devi), also called Sitala Mata, is a Hindu goddess widely worshipped in North India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan as the pox-goddess. Shitala Mata literally means the cool Goddess.

In Hinduism, Goddess Shitala, or Sheetala Mata, is considered an aspect of Shakti. Popularly she is the Hindu goddess of small pox in North India and is known to spread the dreaded disease and cure it. In rural India, she is also considered as an incarnation of Goddess Parvati and Durga, which are two forms of Shakti. Goddess Shitala is popular as Mariamman in Tamil Nadu. She is undoubtedly one of the most popular rural deities and her origin can be traced to the days of Nature Worship.


Shitala Mata is worshipped under different names all through the subcontinent. Śītalā Mata is more often called mā or āmmā (‘mother’) and is worshipped by Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and tribal communities. The goddess is mentioned in early Tantric and Purāṇic literature and her later appearance in vernacular texts (such as the Bengali 17th century Śītalā-maṅgal-kāvyas, ‘auspicious poetry’) has contributed to strengthen her role in village Hinduism. Śītalā is worshipped as a protector.

Shitala Mata is primarily popular among the people of North India and the Indian diaspora. In some traditions she is identified with an aspect of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. Ferrari (2009: 146-147) reports that Shitala Mata is addressed with the following titles:

The names implying a maternal condition: Mā, Ammā, Āi, Padmāvatī Mā (Mother [born from] a lotus], Choṭi Mā (Small Mother), Baṛī Mā (Great Mother) and Moṭi Mā (Pearl Mother);
The names implying a relation with a particular season: Vasanta Rāy (Queen of Vasanta), Vasanta Buṛī (the Beldam of Vasanta) and – among Munda speaking tribes – Māgh-boṅga (Spirit of Māgh);
Honorific titles: Ṭhākurāṇī (Notrê Dame), Jāgrānī (Queen of the World), Karuṇamāyī ([She who is] Full of Mercy), Maṅgalā (the Auspicious One), Bhagavatī (the Blessed One), Dayāmāyī ([She who is] Full of Grace).

According to Puranas, Shitala Mata, the cooling one, was created by Lord Brahma. She was promised by Brahma that she will be worshipped as a Goddess on earth but she should carry the seeds of lentils. In folktales in North India, the lentil is ‘Urad dal.’ She then asked for a companion and she was directed to Lord Shiva, who blessed her and created Jvara Asura (the fever demon). It is said that he was created from the sweat of Lord Shiva.

Shitala Mata and Jvara Asura remained in Devaloka along with other gods and goddess. They used a donkey to transport the lentils to wherever they went. But the lentil seeds one day turned into smallpox germs and start to spread the disease among gods and goddesses. Finally, fed up with Goddess Shitala Mata, gods asked her to go and settle in heaven where she will be worshipped. Shitala Mata and Jvara Asura came down to earth and started hunting for a place to stay.

They went to the court of King Birat, an ardent devotee of Shiva. He agreed to worship her and give a place in his kingdom but she will not get the respect given to Shiva. An angry Shitala Mata demanded supremacy over all other gods and when King Birat did not budge. She spread different kinds of pox on the land and finally, the King had to agree to her wishes. Soon the disease and all its after effects were miraculously cured.

The most important festival dedicated to her takes place in Chaitra month, the Ashtami day after Purnima (full moon) in the month is observed as Sheetala Ashtami. There are famous temples dedicated to Shitala Devi in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The role of Shitala Mata in South India is taken by the goddess Mariamman, whom is worshipped by the Dravidian-speaking people in the Subcontinent and abroad (i.e. in the West but particularly in Malaysia, Indonesia, Bali)

The worship of Shitala Mata is conducted by both Brahmins and low caste pujaris. She is primarily worshipped in the dry seasons of winter and spring.

Shitala Mata is accompanied by Jvarāsura, the fever demon, Olāi Caṇḍi/ Olāi Bibi, the goddess of cholera, the Cauṣaṭṭī Rogas, the sixty-four epidemics, Gheṇṭukarṇa, the god of skin diseases, and Raktāvatī, the goddess of blood infections. Śītalā Mata is represented as a young maiden crowned with a winnowing-fan, riding an ass, holding a short broom (either to spread or dust off germs) and a pot full of pulses (the viruses) or cold water (a healing tool). Among low-caste Hindus and tribal communities, she is eugenically represented with slab-stones or carved heads. Sometimes, she is said to be carrying a bunch of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves, an ancient Ayurveda's medicinal herb that is very much an effective remedy to most skin diseases even today.
src:wikipedia/Hindu Blog

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