Sheetla Mata–A Form of Divine Mother
Sheetla Mata is a form of Devi Durga or Shakti, the Divine Mother. She abates the irritation of our ailments such as fever, small pox, chicken pox, sores, pustules, ghouls and other diseases in this form. Adishakti Bhagavati or Mahamaya assumes the form of Sheetla to take away the sufferings of the world people.
Goddess Sheetla In Scriptures
Sheetla is the goddess of smallpox appeared in the Skandapurana and the Bhavaprakash , a Sanskrit ayurvedic medical text. According to Skanda Purana, Goddess Sheetla is the incarnation of Goddess Durga and Mata Parvati. Here, she is depicted as a two handed goddess. As stated in Devi Mahatmya, Goddess Katyayani (another form of Divine Mother) took the form of Sheetla when a demon named Jwarasura gave fever to the children. Then Devi cured her devotees in the form of Sheetla. In Sanskrit, ‘Jwara’ means ‘fever’ and ‘Sheetla’ means ‘coolness’. In Skanda Purana, She is depicted as a two handed goddess. In ancient rural Bengal, she was a very popular goddess. So, she is thought to be a demotic goddess. Raktavati (possessor of blood) and Oladevi are two other forms of Sheetla Mata. She is also known to us as Thakurani, Jagarani, Mangala, Bhagavati, Dayamoyee and Karunamoyee. In Southern India, the goddess is known as Goddess Mariamman or Goddess Poleramma. The devotees of Hariyana state in India worship Sheetla Mata as Kripi, the wife of Dronacharya in the story of Mahabharata. Sheetla is considered as the chief deity of the Savaras, an ethnic group of West Bengal.
Many people think that Sheetla Mata is the carrier of smallpox and they get scared when they hear the name of mother Sheetla. The belief of those people is that mother gives us disease to get our Puja. Those people are very stupid. The mother never gives disease to her devotees and she is not a beggar of worship. The mother is Annapurna herself. Mother gives us rice we eat. So the mother lacks nothing. We offer the mother’s things to the mother. The mother comes not to give us disease, but to take away our disease and sufferings. There is no reason to be scared when we see our Mother Goddess, Sheetla. We should remember that the mother’s name destroys the disease.
Things Associated With Sheetla
Seated on an ass Sheetla Mata is seen to hold an Amritkumbh, a broom, a winnowing fan, a bunch of Neem (margosa) leaves etc. in her hands. All of these are symbolic.
Things associated with Sheetla Mata
Sheetla Mata carries an Amritkumbh (a pitcher of nectar). An Amritkumbh is symbolically used for peace. It is also soothing and enlivening for the devotees of the goddess.
A broom is usually used either to sweep the dirt or to spray a liquid material. Sheetla Mata chases away our disease and sufferings. So, she holds a symbolic broom. It is also believed that she sprays nectar with her divine broom for our peace.
A bunch of Neem (margosa) leaves is seen in the hand of Goddess Sheetla. According to Ayurveda, a Neem leaf is a medicinal, healing remedy for skin problems and other inner bodily issues. So Neem leaves are used to produce many herbal medicines. Village people grow Neem plants in their yards to prevent airborne diseases.
Sheetla Mata holds a winnowing fan that symbolizes purification. A winnowing fan is usually used to separate unwanted things from the grains. It is one kind of purification. When we suffer from diseases, we need to be purified from the ailment and restored to our original state.
Mother Sheetla’s vehicle is an ass. It is also symbolical. We call the ass a fool, but in fact, it works quietly for the owner. An ass teaches us selfless action, selflessness. So, the mother’s vehicle is the ass.
Sheetla festivals are mainly celebrated in North India, West Bengal, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The devotees in these places arrange different celebrations to worship goddess Sheetla. These celebrations include
Sheetla Shashthi, Sheetla Saptami, Sheetla Ashtami etc.
Sheetla Shashthi has a great importance in Indian sub-continent. This festival is celebrated on the sixth day of Shukla Paksha (the waxing moon period) in Magh (January-February) month. Fasting is the most important ritual of Sheetla Shashthi festival. This fasting ritual is associated with the following story.
A long time ago an aristocratic Brahmin had seven sons. When the sons became adults, the Brahmin married them with great pomp. Many years passed but the Brahmin sons did not have any children. One day someone came and informed the Brahmin that if his sons observed the Sheetla Shashthi Vrat, they would have children. Then the Brahmin couple requested their sons and daughters-in-law to observe the Sheetla Shashthi Vrat. Brahmin sons and daughters-in-law duly performed the Sheetla Shashthi Vrat. As a result, all the seven couples were blessed with offsprings after a year. Thus the Sheetla Shashthi Vrat was introduced in the world.
Sheetla Saptami is usually celebrated on the Saptami (the seventh day) in the month of Chaitra (March-April). In some places this puja or vrat is observed on the Saptami (the seventh day) in the month of Shravana (August-September). Sheetla Saptami festival is mainly celebrated in the areas of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat of India. This festival is also known as Polala Amavasya in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Sheetla Ashtami (Basoda Puja) is celebrated on the eighth day of Krishna Paksha (the waning moon period) in the month of Chaitra (March-April). It is the day of Sheetla Mata celebrated eighth day after Holi or on the first Monday or Friday after Holi. Sheetla Ashtami is popular in Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajsthan of India.
Worship of Sheetla Mata
Sheetla Mata is worshipped like other gods or goddesses in a temple (watch video below) or a suitable place. The devotees offer green coconut, papaya, watermelon etc. to the goddess.
While worshipping the goddess, the devotees sing the devotional song (Om Jay Sheetla Mata) and chant –
Namami Sheetla Devi Rasbhastha Digambara
Marjani Kalshopeta Shurpalankrut Mastaka ||