Sheetala Ashtami or Basoda is dedicated to Goddess Sheetala and is celebrated on Krishna Paksha Ashtami in Chaitra month (April-May), which comes eight days after Holi festival. While some celebrate the festival on the first Monday or Friday after Holi. The festival is celebrated to please Goddess Shitala, an incarnation of Goddess Durga and is popular in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, the festival is celebrated with great devotion and huge fairs with musical programs are organised. There is a tradition to not lit fire for cooking hence people consume stale food on Sheetala Ashtami. In 2018, Sheetala Ashtami falls on March 9.
- Devotees take bath before sunrise and worship Goddess Shitala. The picture or idol of the goddess is adorned with sandalwood paste, vermillion, and flowers.
- Rice (cooked a day before) mixed with ghee is offered to the goddess as bhog.
- Devotees read Basoda Vrat Katha.
- Devotees do not light fire for cooking and hence consume food cooked a day earlier.
It is believed that worshipping Goddess Sheetala helps to ward off diseases like smallpox, chickenpox, and measles. According to the legend, Goddess Durga incarnated as Katyayani is the daughter of Sage Katyayan. She fought with the demon named Jwarasur – the demon of chicken pox, smallpox, and measles – and saved the lives of the people. But the damage was already done and the spread of illnesses intensified and this is when Katyayani took the form of Shitala Devi. She was seen mounted on a donkey and carried a silver broom on one hand and a cup of soup and jar of Ganga water on the other. While her friend Batuk took the form of Bhairav. Goddess Shitala and Batuk killed the demon.
Tithi (March 9)
Sheetala Ashtami Puja Muhurat: 6:55 am to 6:42 pm
Ashtami tithi begins: 3:44 am on March 9
Ashtami tithi ends: 6 am on March 10