Goddess Sheetala or Shitala Devi is believed to be an incarnation of Ma Durga, who is associated to cure poxes, sores, and pustules.
In Sanskrit, ‘Sheetala’ means’ one who cools. Shitala is worshiped under different names in different regions. In India, the goddess is popularly worshipped in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. While outside India, she is worshipped in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Sheetala Ashtami, a special day to worship the goddess, is celebrated on the Krishna Paksha Ashtami after Holi. It is usually celebrated a day before Krishna Janmashtami Thithi on the respective month. This year, it falls on March 14 as per Drig Panchang, while some other religious sites suggest the day be observed on March 15, 2023.
There is a tradition to not light a fire for cooking on this day. Devotees avoid cooking and eating fresh food on Sheetala Ashtami.
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.
All you need to know to observe the auspicious day
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 a fire for cooking and hence consume food cooked a day earlier.
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