Hindu Festival: Sitala Saptami

This fast festival comes on the seventh (Saptami) of the light half of Sravan (July-August), two days later than Naag Panchami. It is celebrated in the honour of small pox goddess Sitala Devi. In the South, the name of this goddess is Mari Amman, 'Mother of death'.

This goddess may either avert small pox; cause small pox or be herself small pox. People dying of small pox, are not burnt in some regions, lest the goddess may be burnt. She also presides over cholera and other diseases causing death. Her shrines are found outside villages, under trees or in groves and are often associated with the shrines of Ganesa.

In Chhatisgarh state, small pox is considered as mother (Mata) or goddess (Devi). If anyone is inflicted with small pox, instead of getting him treated, worship of Sitala is done. There are temples devoted to her, where worship is done with proper rituals. Like many types of small pox, the Goddess also has different names viz. Dhaneya, Sendri, Baddi Meya. Her many manifestations recognized are Bhavani, Kankalin Meya, Durga, etc.

The Goddess has a donkey for her conveyance. She is the bestower of sight to the blind; beautiful body to the leper; feet to the lame; wealth to the poor and son to an impotent mother. The people believe that this mother goddess has created the earth while sitting and the sky, when standing. Animal slaughter is a part of her worship.

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