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Oladevi is the goddess of cholera and the wife of the Asura Maya and is worshipped by people in the region of Bengal (consisting of the country Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal). The goddess is also known as Olaichandi, Olabibi and Bibima. She is venerated by Hindus and Muslims of Bengal.

Oladevi is an important part of folk tradition in Bengal, and is honoured by communities of different religions and cultures.[1][2][3]


Oladevi is believed to be the wife of Mayasura, the legendary king and architect of Asuras, Danavas, and Daityas in Hindu mythology.[1] Devotees consider her to be the guardian deity against the cholera disease, protecting those who worship her against the disease, which plagued communities across Bengal.[1] Indeed, the Bengali term for cholera is ola-otha or ola-utha, a reference to the name Ola (one meaning of the word otha in Bengali is appearance).

To Hindus, Oladevi is the combined form Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati, portrayed as a lady with deep yellow skin wearing a blue sari and adorned with ornaments. She is portrayed with extended arms and seated with a child in her lap.[1] The Muslims of Bengal call her Olabibi or Bibima from Olabibi Gan (Song of Olabibi), which recounts the story of the child of a virgin Muslim princess that disappeared mystically and reappeared as the Goddess, curing the sons of the minister of the kingdom and the badshah, the father of her mother.[3] She is portrayed wearing a cap, scarf and ornaments. On her feet she wore nagra shoes and sometimes also socks. In one hand she held a magical staff that destroyed the ailments of her devotees.[1]

Social influence[edit]

Oladevi is an important figure in the folk traditions of Bengal and is considered by experts as a superimposition of the Hindu concept of the Mother Divine with the stern monotheistic Islamic deity, Allah.[2] The worship of Oladevi as the Goddess of Cholera is believed to have emerged in the 19th century CE with the spreading of the disease in the Indian subcontinent.[4] The importance of Oladevi extends across communal lines and caste barriers.[1] However, the significance of her worship has diminished in modern times as outbreaks of cholera have been reduced considerably by advancements in medicine and sanitation.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Oladevi - Banglapedia
  2. ^ a b Islam in Bangladesh
  3. ^ a b Ralph W. Nicholas. Fruits of Worship: Practical Religion in Bengal. Page 205. Orient Longman, 2003. ISBN 81-8028-006-3
  4. ^ The Cool Goddess