Shitla Mata or Sheetala Mata moorti
August 10, 2020, Monday is the Sheetala Saptami festival. Just a day before Krishna Janmashtami, that is the birth of Lord Krishna, comes this festival.
It is called by several names. In Gujarat, they call it the Sheetala Satam, Shitala Satam or Shitala Saptami. It falls on the seventh day of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight/waning fortnight) of the Hindu calendar based on lunar phases.
Devotees take on a vrat or fasting ritual complete with worship rituals. The fast is in honour of Shiatala Mata the Goddess mentioned in Skanda Puranas. She is depicted riding a donkey and carries a broom. Women worship her to pray for the health and long life of their children.
A day of no cooking, a day to eat food cooked a day earlier
This festival is at a time when the region (India being a tropical country) is in the midst of the monsoon. At several places, it is pretty hot and humid.
It is said that eating simple, non-spicy, cold food stored safely from a day before is prescribed to be eaten on this day according to the shastras (ancient principles) as a relaxant to the digestive system. Sheetal is cold. The Sheetala Mata vrat incorporates 'sheetal' (cold, calming) food so that the stomach is not aggravated and gets food that is easy to digest.
One is supposed to bathe in water at room temperature. No hot water baths on this day. This adds to overall body invigoration.
The symbolism of elements Sheetala Mata wears:
The Goddess is depicted carrying a broom and wearing a garland of neem leaves to signify the importance of cleanliness and keeping your surroundings clean. She is also shown carrying a kalash or a small pot of water.
Clean water is essential for good health. The Goddess carrying a kalash of water is significant in those aspects.
Neem is a natural, tree product that has immense medicinal value. In the olden days when antibiotics had not yet been discovered, neem would be the go-to element in nature to carry out body detox or fight germs and infection. At the time of peaking monsoon, the body can use all support it gets to stay calmer, healthier and energetic.
The Vitamin-C diet our ancestors valued:
Sheetala Mata is considered as a Goddess who frees humans of diseases and her idol carries the elements that depict things that keep us healthier. Even for those who do not believe in religious principles, the health and hygiene principles underlying this worship are undeniable.
The views expressed by the author are personal and do not in any way represent those of Times Network.