This year 14 March 2023 will be celebrated as Sheetla Saptami Vrat. It is observed in North Indian states like Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, etc. Some people observe Sheetla Pujan on Sheetla Ashtami and others observe it on Sheetla Saptami day. It falls on Saptami in Krishna Paksha of Chaitra month in North Indian Hindi calendars.
About Goddess Sheetla
Goddess Sheetla, an aspect of Goddess Parvati, is worshipped as the Goddess of Chicken-Pox and Chicken Pox. A common disease that occurs in children known as measles (smallpox) or called ‘Mata ji’ in the common language can be cured by worshipping Mata as worshipping her during this time is said to be beneficial.
In this way, even today, in rural areas, we can especially see the worship of Mata Sheetla at the time of this disease. In urban areas also, if people see the effect of this disease then they visit the temple and worship Mata Sheetla for making peace with this disease. On the day of Sheetla Saptami, devotees worship her with devotion and they let their children worship the Goddess. In some rural areas in India, Janthu Bali (Animal Sacrifice) is also done to please the Goddess Sheetla. Goddess is very similar to the South Indian deities, Goddess Poleramma worshipped in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and Mariamman worshipped in Tamilnadu and Kerala.
Sheetla Mata rides on a donkey, holds a vase, broom, soup (supda) in her hands and wears a garland of neem leaves. Mata should be offered cold food.
The Sheetla Mata fasts involves eating cold and pre cooked food as per rituals. The same food is served as Bhog to Mata which is cool. She is named so along the lines of the name Sheetal which means cool. Hence, it is believed that when a person observes the Mata fasts all the disturbances in one’s life gets sorted.
Story behind Sheetla Saptami
Mother Sheetla is pleased by fasting on Sheetla Saptami. The specialty of this fast is that all the food offered to Devi is prepared a day before. On the second day, offerings are made to Mata. That’s why this fast is also called Basora. It is believed that on this day the stove does not burn in the houses. Even Diya and agarbatti are not lighten up.
In earlier times, the famous story about Sheetla Mata is there was about a woman living in a village. She was a devotee of Mata and used to fast for Mata. In the village, the villagers were worshiping Mata, then the villagers offered rich food to the mother. Mother Bhavani, the epitome of coolness, got burnt by the hot food, so she got angry and she set the whole village on fire with anger. Only one old lady’s house was left safe.
Why do we eat cold food on Sheetla Saptami and Ashtami ?
When the villagers went and asked the old lady about not burning the house, the old lady said that she used to feed Mata cool food and said that she cooked food at night and fed cold stale food to the mother. Due to which the mother was pleased and saved the old woman’s house from burning.
After listening to the old lady, the villagers apologized to goddess and worshiped mother Basoda by feeding her stale food on the day of Saptami which comes after Rangpanchami. In Hindu fasts, this is the only fast in which stale food is eaten.
Some rules of this Vrat
- Eat stale and cold food, prepared a day before.
- Do not light up gas, stoves or re heat the food.
- Bath with cold water.
- Do not light up diya, agarbatti, or dhoop sticks even in the temple or at home.
- Eat and make food using Dahi as a major ingredient.