» Sheetala Ashtami
Sheetala Ashtami

Sheetala Ashtami

Category: Festival
Celebrated In: India in Winter Season
Celebrated By: Hindu (Hindu)

After celebrating the festival of colours; Holi, devotees are waiting to celebrate the auspicious festival of Maa Sheetala, which is popularly named as Sheetala Asthami. This sacred occasion is basically celebrated on the eighth day of krishna paksh in the month of Chaitra, following the Holi festival. Some people also call this as ‘Holi Asthami’. Some people observe the festival of ‘Sheetala Asthami’ eight days after the Holi festival, where as some people observe the first Monday after Holi as ‘Sheetala Asthami’. This festival is predominantly observed in North India. Besides North India, people from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh also celebrate the auspicious Sheetala Asthami with lot of devotion and enthusiasm.

However, people in Gujarat celebrate this festival one day before ‘Krishna Janmasthami’ (birthday of lord Krishna). The festival is called as Sheetala Saptami there. Sheetala Asthami gives the indication of seasonal changes on earth and also makes people aware of staying healthy by keeping themselves away from diseases. Goddess Sheetala holds a pot, neem leaves and a broom (Jhadu) in her hands and prefers to visit her devotees sitting on a donkey

On the sacred occasion of Sheetala Asthami, devotees worship the Goddess ‘Maa Sheetala’ with great piety. Fun fares are being held inside the premises of Maa sheetala temple across the country. At some places people call this as ‘Basoda’. There is an age old ritual of worshipping goddess Sheetala with left-over ‘Prasad’ instead of offering freshly made ‘Prasad’. On this day women do not cook fresh food at home. They prepare food one day before the auspicious occasion of Sheetala Asthami, which is being offered to goddess Sheetala as ‘Bhog’ or ‘Prasad’. 

Significance of Celebrating Sheetala Asthami:

Goddess Sheetala is the most revered deity of the people of north India. People worship the goddess as the giver of peace and prosperity as Maa Sheetala brings happiness and prosperity to their homes by restoring the lost peace among the members of the family. Goddess Sheetala also bless her devotees with good health ensuring the end of all the diseases. Hence she is the protector of her devotees who safeguards them by blessing with all the prosperity and goodness. People also celebrate Sheetala Asthami to keep themselves and their families away from the dangerous disease like chicken pox and small pox. In olden days chicken pox and small pox were considered as deadly diseases as no such effective remedy was invented at that time to counter these diseases. So people believe that Goddess Sheetala will bless them with good health if they please her by keeping fast on the holy occasion of Sheetala Asthami. 

There is folklore about the holy Sheetala Asthami, which speaks about the kindness of goddess Sheetala on her devotees. There was a woman who had two daughter-in-laws. They both kept the fast of Sheetala Asthami, but instead of eating yesterday’s cooked food, they ate freshly cooked food as they had given birth to two children recently. This made the goddess angry and both the children died after a short while. Mother-in-law threw both of them out of her house after knowing this. Both of them met Maa Sheetala on the way. They worshipped her and begged her to forgive them. Goddess was pleased with them and gave life to their dead children. From that day onwards people are celebrating the holy festival with lot of devotion and belief to ensure happiness, prosperity and good health for their family. 

How devotees observe Sheetala Asthami:

On the occasion of Sheetala Asthami people wake up early in the morning. After taking bath they prepare two ‘Puja ki Thaali’ for the purpose of worship, where in they keep Chapaatis, curd, sweets and homemade snacks (mathri) in one Thaali  and in another Thaali they keep a ‘diya’ made of flour, sindoor, puja clothes, turmeric, coins and mehendi to offer the goddess. Then both the Thaalis are kept on cold water. They offer the goddess with ‘diyas’ made of flour without lighting it. 

On this day people worship goddess Sheetala with all the required things and offer ‘Bhog’ or ‘Prasad’ at Maa Sheetala temple and also at the same place where ‘Holika Dahan’ ritual had been performed. Then the priest reads the holy ‘Purana’ (a religious book) of Maa Sheetala before her devotees, where in the Goddess have blessed her devotees with lot of peace, happiness and prosperity. Soon after the priest completing the ‘Purana’, the devotees come back to home and worship the place where they have kept the cold water. Then they imprint their hands dipped in the paste of turmeric on both sides of the door of their house. This ritual is regarded as the most auspicious one as ‘turmeric’ is regarded as the substance of bringing prosperity to their homes. Then devotees sprinkle the sacred and sanctified water, they have brought from the temple of Goddess Sheetala, all over their house. By doing this they ensure themselves of getting the ultimate happiness, peace and the blessings of Goddess Sheetala. The ritual of sprinkling the sanctified temple water all over the house also protects their home from all the diseases, pain and grief

Devotees keep fasting till Puja and take the food that is being offered to goddess Sheetala as ‘prasad’ or ‘Bhog’. They do not burn their hearth the whole day as per the rituals of this festival. They do this only to please the Goddess as they believe; the Goddess will be upset on them if they make their house warm by burning their hearth or consume hot food. So in order to keep the significance of this ritual intact devotees only take cold (sheetala) food. 

Sheetala Ashtami Dates

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