Sheetala Devi – The Healer of Epidemics
Tomorrow in India the festival of Sheetala Ashtami will be celebrated , which is dedicated to Goddess Sheetala . Sheetala means the one who brings coolness and calmness in life threatening situations . As per the Skanda Purana she is revered as the healer of epidemics and diseases , as when the great epidemics hit the living beings on earth , devotees of the Mother Goddess pleaded her for help when they lost all hope . Shakti appeared as Sheetala , and gave protection from harmful diseases which became epidemics . She holds a broomstick or Neem in one hand which symbolises her powers of purification from harmful diseased environment and a pot filled with medicinal fluid which heals the infected ones.
As per her legend a being named Jvarasura was around . He was a human being but observing his inhuman actions people called him a demon. His Sadhna gave him powerful occult strength which he used to control everything on earth . When humans and sages resisted his order , he created terrible diseases to destroy all life on earth . The disease took the form of an epidemic and mostly affected young children who were dying at a faster rate in it’s influence .
Non of the medicine or treatment could cure that disease and life slowly started to perish on earth by the atrocious Jvarasura . The devotees pleaded to the Goddess , as their only hope and asked her to protect them from extinction . The Devi heard the pleading of her devotees and to save them she appeared as Sheetala , the ultimate protector .
Sheetala vanquished and destroyed the microorganisms of Jvarasura’s disease and purified the air and environment . She enslaved the defeated Jvarasura and made him a Gardabh or a donkey . She exhibited her control over him and he lost all his powers . He later apologized to the Goddess and asked her to remain at her service . Sheetala made him her Vahana and she is always depicted riding a Gardabh .
She is worshiped on the Ashtami day of the Chaitra Krishnapaksha month which is known as Sheetala Ashtami . As the Goddess of coolness she is offered cool food which is made last night . Her devotees recite Sheetala Ashtakam which is mentioned in Skanda Purana and she is worshiped . The southern India worships her as Mariamman .
Let us all pray to Mother Sheetala to protect us from harmful disease which is surfacing the earth now . Let’s take precautions and remain prayerful . Sri Matre Namaha Jai Sheetala Devi .