Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 1:07 AM
Goddess Shitala literally means the ‘Cool Goddess’, is a Hindu goddess. She is the goddess who is invoked for protection against the evil she causes. She is the goddess of small pox, who roams the country side, riding an ass and searches for victims. She is widely worshipped in North India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan as the pox-goddess. In Hinduism, goddess Shitala is considered an aspect of goddess Durga or Shakti. Popularly she is the Hindu goddess of small pox in North India and is known to spread the dreaded disease and cure it. The occurrence of the disease is believed to be a manifestation of the goddess Shitala. According to the Hindu devotees, the disease is medium by which the goddess enters one’s body and becomes one with the devotee. She is undoubtedly one of the most popular rural deities.
Goddess Shitala is depicted wearing red robes dress and rides around the villages in North India on a donkey (ass) and inflicting people with the dreaded pox like small pox, chicken pox etc. Symbolically, she represents Nature’s power of generating viruses causing disease and nature’s healing powers. She is depicted having four hands. In her four hands she carries a silver broom, winnow fan, small bowl and a pitcher with Gangajal (the holy water from River Ganga). Occasionally, she is depicted with two hands carrying a broom and pitcher.
Shitala Satam popularly known as Shitala Shasti, is observed on the seventh day of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of moon) in Shravan month in Gujarat. Shitala Satam is dedicated to Goddess Shitala, the goddess of pox and measles. It is observed for the welfare of children and others to escape from measles and small pox. 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 Shitala Ashtami. Goddess Shitala is worshipped as the Goddess of Chicken-Pox and Chicken Pox. On the day of Shitala Saptami, devotees worship her with devotion and they let their children to worship the Goddess. There are famous temples dedicated to Shitala Devi in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The Puranas describe that goddess Shitala was created by Lord Brahma. She was promised by Lord Brahma that she will be worshipped as a Goddess on earth. She asked for a companion, then lord Shiva created Jvara Asura (the fever demon) from his sweat as her companion. Goddess Shitala and Jvara Asura came down to earth and started hunting for a place to stay. They went to the court of king Birat, a dedicated devotee of lord Shiva. He agreed to worship her and give a place in his kingdom but she would not get the respect given to lord Shiva. So, goddess Shitala 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 amazingly cured.
The smallpox disease is thought to be eradicated the worship of goddess Shitala still continues and this is seen as the reason why, in some regions, she has taken on different personalities that depict her as not only the goddess of disease but also the protector of children and giver of good fortune. She is worshipped by all classes but she tends to get the most patronage from the poor. She is especially worshipped to avoid her wrath. All paintings are courtesy of Art of Legend India.