Sheetala Ashtami also called Basoda Puja falls in Chaitra month. The festival falls on the Ashtami Tithi (eighth date) of the Krishna Paksha (Waning Phase of the Moon) in the month of ‘Chaitra’ as per the Hindu calendar. The day is dedicated to Goddess Sheetala to get blessed with good health and relief from epidemic diseases, especially to protect their children.
On the day of Sheetala Ashtami, people don’t prepare any fresh food as the fire isn’t lit for cooking. Devotees follow the custom of offering stale food to the Goddess, because of which, this day is also known as Basoda. The festival is more popularly observed in north India, in states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
In 2023 Sheetala Ashtami will be celebrated on Wednesday, 15th March.
Sheetala Mata is a Goddess who is shown seated on a Donkey. She has a broom in Her hand and She wears the leaves of ‘Neem’ as ornaments. She holds a pot of cool water in her hand as well. She uses these items to rid a house of disease–she sweeps up the germs with her broom, uses the fan to collect them, and dumps them into the bowl. She then sprinkles water from the pot (which is water from the river Ganges) to purify the house.
Sheetala Mata is a symbol of cleanliness and healthy life. Sheetala literally means one who cools in Sanskrit. She is one of the incarnations of Goddess Durga or Shakti who cures poxes, sores, ghouls, pustules, and diseases. Sheetala is accompanied by Jvarasura, the fever demon, Oladevi, the cholera goddess, Ghentu-debata, the god of skin diseases, Raktabati, the goddess of blood infections and the sixty-four epidemics.
It is believed that Goddess Sheetala or Sheetala Mata controls the onset of smallpox, chicken pox, and measles. People worship her and observe a fast to prevent the outbreak of epidemic diseases.
Suggested Read: Hindu Gods and their Vahanas
The story behind the worship of Sheetala Mata
There was a village where an old woman lived and once there was a huge fire in the village. The entire village burnt but the fire did not touch the house of the old woman.
Surprised by this, the villagers asked the old woman the reason for her house remaining untouched by fire. The old woman said that she always observes a fast on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksha in the month of Chaitra and breaks her fast by eating cold & stale food.
She said that she does not light up her cooking stove entirely on this day and worships Sheetala Mata wholeheartedly and for this reason, Sheetala Mata saved her and her house from fire. Since then the tradition of worshipping Sheetala Mata started!
Sheetala Mata has been described as the goddess of health in Hindu scripts. Goddess Sheetala clears the germs(negative vitality) and gathers them in the dustpan. At that point, she utilizes neem leaves to sprinkle the water from the heavenly Kalash.
It is believed that on this day a woman who observes a fast and worships her reverently, her family, and her children remain healthy. The goddess is also said to cure diseases like fever, measles, smallpox, eye diseases, etc.
Sheetle har me paap, putra putra sukhprade
Dhandhanya prade devi, pujagruhan namostute ||
Suggested Read: Shri Sheetala Chalisa