Sheetala Saptami is a Hindu festival dedicated to Goddess Sheetala. It is observed twice in a year, once during the ‘Krishna Paksha Saptami’ (7th day of the waning phase of moon) of ‘Chaitra’ month and the another is during the ‘Shukla Paksha Saptami’ (7th day of the waxing phase of moon) in ‘Shravana’ month. Sheetala Saptami which falls in the Chaitra month is very important. On the day of Sheetala Saptami, devotees worship Goddess Sheetala to protect their children from contagious Chicken Pox and Small Pox. This festival is celebrated all over India, especially in the rural regions. In the southern states of India, Goddess Sheetala is worshiped as ‘Goddess Poleramma’ or ‘Goddess Mariamman.’ In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Sheetala Saptami is observed as ‘Polala Amavasya.’
Significance of Sheetala Saptami:
The significance of Sheetala Saptami is mentioned in the ‘Skanda Purana.’ In Hindu scriptures, she is the Goddess of Small Pox. She is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati and Goddess Durga, the two forms of Shaktis worshiped in Hinduism. Goddess Sheetala represents Nature’s healing power. Devotees worship Sheetala Mata along with their children to seek protection from smallpox and chicken pox. The word ‘Sheetla’ means ‘to cool.’ It is believed that Goddess Sheetla cools her devotees who are suffering from contagious diseases.
A legend says Goddess Durga has incarnated as Katyayani, the daughter of sage Katyayan to destroy evil demonic forces of the world. She killed many demons. Jwarasur, the demon of fever, started spreading incurable diseases. Katyayani cured the diseases. To relieve the world from all fevers and diseases, Katyayani took the form of Sheetala Devi. She held a broom, winnowing fan, a pot of water and a cup. She cured all the diseases of children. Katyayani requested her friend Batuk to confront the demon Jwarasur. A battle ensued between the young Batuk and demon Jwarasur. Batuk was defeated by Jwarasur. Batuk magically disappeared into dust. Jwarasur was shocked and wondered where he went. Batuk has assumed the form of an awful male figure with three eyes and four arms. He held an axe, sword, trident and demon head. He was black in color with flowing hairs, and his eyes were blazing with fury. He wore a tiger-skin and skull garland. Batuk took the form of Lord Shiva's ferocious form, the Bhairav. A battle broke out between them. Jwarasur created many demons, but Bhairav managed to destroy all of them. Finally, Bhairav wrestled with Jwarasur and killed him with his trident.
Celebration and Rituals:
Goddess Sheetala Devi is worshiped by her devotees. Devotees get up early in the morning and bath in cold water. They visit the temple to offer their prayers to Goddess. Rituals are performed on this day for a peaceful and happy life. On Sheetala Saptami some of the devotees shave their heads in honor of Goddess Sheetala.
Devotees do not cook food on Sheetla Saptami. They consume the food, which is prepared on the previous day. Eating hot food is strictly prohibited. Several devotees even keep a fast on this day. Women keep the fast for the well-being of her children.