(Sheetla Saptami/Ashtami falls in Feb/March/August)
The Sindhis call it ‘Satain’or ‘Nandhi Thadri’ According to a Sindhi Pandit ‘Small Satain’ falls 7 days before Raksha Bandhan. Big Satain falls one day before Janmaashtami. I asked the Pandit what was the corresponding name in Hindi, and which Deity is worshipped. I was informed that Satain is called Sheetla Saptami, and Mother Sheetladevi is worshipped. The Pandit informed me that most people pray to Mother Sheetladevi to ward off measles, chicken pox, small pox…for a happy marriage and to perform ‘mundan’ cutting of the hair,(tonsure) of the children… Sindhis cook ‘Meetha lolas’, and mothers sing:’Thaar Mata Thaar, Munhje bachran khe thaar’… Which means Cool my children (Possibly from the heat of the fevers…)
The original Temple of Sheetladevi is in the State of Haryana, in Gurgaon, which originally was called “Guru Gram” Guru Gram was gifted by the Pandava King Yudhishtra to his guru Dronacharya. Dronacharya’s wife Kripi stayed in a cottage nearby. When Mata Kripi, an ideal wife, gave up her body, a temple was constructed in her memory. She came to be known as Mata Sheetla or Mata Masani, the goddess of small pox. The temple is also referred to, as ‘Shakti Peeth’ Many people visit the temple, but most pilgrims flock there during the month of Chaitra (March, April) and the month of Shravan (July August) There is a Seetla Devi Temple in Bombay (Mahim).
There is also a Sheetla Devi Temple in Chennai (India)
The temple has been set up by Mr.Raghavan. The Goddess appeared in his dreams and asked him to set up a Temple for her at Madipakkam in Chennai. The temple is being set up since three years, and all the functions pertaining to Sheethala Devi Mata are being performed every year.
There are various legends connected with the Sheetla Devi Temple.
1) A poor carpenter had a beautiful daughter. A Mughal Emperor wanted to marry her. The poor carpenter was distraught as he did not wish that his daughter should marry, someone from a different religion. The carpenter asked the prince of Bharatpur to help. The prince started his journey, but on the way, the horses refused to move. An elaborate worship of the goddess was arranged. The horses moved. The prince promised to build a temple of the goddess, if he returned victorious. The prince won and a proper temple was built.
2) As two queens proceeded to a pilgrimage to Pushkar, they got into an argument as to who would take the first dip. The kings entered into the quarrel. King of Bharatpur attacked the king of Ajmer. King of Bharatpur won the fight, and built the temple.
3) A Brahmin woman broke the rules of ritual worship, and her family died. Frantic, she ran. In a forest, she saw an old woman in flames. The Brahmin woman got some curds and extinguished the fire, on the old woman (Sheetla Devi). Sheetla Devi asked the Brahmin woman to apply the curd to her husband and children. The Brahmin woman did as she was told. All of them were brought back to life.
These stories have moral value. Maybe they instill faith. Maybe eating cold food and not lighting the kitchen fire, is not done for a day, to give the housewife a well earned rest. Maybe eating cool food, is good for the digestive system. Maybe not lighting the kitchen fire is cooling for the ailing child. We are asked not to give antibiotics to a child suffering from chicken pox, measles…Today we know that these are viral infections. And I marvel at the Elder Hindus, making every facet of life, even an illness, into a spiritual experience.
Sheetla is believed to weaar a yellow saree, the colour of Vasant/Spring.
She carries the pox germs in a golden water pot and spreads them with a fan.
She likes sweets made with jaggery and cleanliness.
She is worshipped as Muthumariamman, goddess of diseases, in Pondicherry and Tamilnadu. A fair is held in her honour in Jaraga Village, Punjab.