Sheetala Mata

Goddess Shitala, also known as Sheetala Mata, is a Shakti aspect in Hinduism. In North India, she is known as the Hindu goddess of smallpox, spreading and curing the dreaded disease.

In rural India, she is also regarded as an incarnation of the Goddesses Parvati and Durga, both of whom are manifestations of Shakti. In Tamil Nadu, Goddess Shitala is known as Mariamman. She is without a doubt one of the most popular rural deities, with roots dating back to the days of Nature Worship.


According to legend, Goddess Shitala wears a red dress and rides around the villages of North India on a donkey (ass), infecting people with the dreaded pox - small pox, chicken pox, and so on. She is of tribal origin and represents Nature's power to generate viruses that cause disease as well as Nature's healing power. She is shown with four hands. She carries a silver broom, a winnow fan, a small bowl, and a pitcher filled with Gangajal, holy water from the Ganga. She is sometimes depicted with two hands holding a broom and a pitcher. Goddess Sheetla murti, symbolically, also emphasises the importance of cleanliness.

Goddess Sheetla Mata Story

According to the Puranas, Lord Brahma created Sheetla, the cooling one. Brahma promised her that she would be worshipped as a Goddess on Earth, but she had to carry lentil seeds. The lentil is referred to as 'Urad dal' in North Indian folklore. She then requested a companion and was directed to Lord Shiva, who blessed her and created Jvara Asura (the fever demon). He is said to have been formed from Lord Shiva's sweat. Sheetla and Jvara Asura, along with other gods and goddesses, remained in Devaloka. The lentils were transported by donkey wherever they went. However, the lentil seeds mutated into smallpox germs and began to spread the disease among the gods and goddesses. Finally, fed up with Goddess Sheetla, the gods asked her to come to earth and be worshipped. Sheetla and Jvara Asura arrived on Earth and began looking for a place to stay.

They went to the court of King Birat, a devout Shiva devotee. He agreed to worship her and give her a place in his kingdom, but she will not be treated with the same reverence as Shiva. Shitala became enraged and demanded supremacy over all other gods when King Birat refused to budge. She infected the land with various types of pox, and the King was eventually forced to grant her wishes. The disease and all of its consequences were miraculously cured.

The most important festival dedicated to her occurs in Chaitra month, on the Ashtami day following Purnima (full moon) in the month, and is known as Sheetala Ashtami. Shitala Devi temples can be found in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

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