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Goddess of Ailments[1]
Kalighat Shitala.jpg
The goddess Sheetala on Jvarasura
WeaponBroom, hand fan, water pot (medicinal water for cure for diseases)
FestivalsSheetala Asthami

Sheetala (Sanskrit: शीतला, IAST: śītalā) lit.'"coolness"', also spelled as Shitala and Seetla, is a Hindu goddess venerated primarily in North India.[2] She is regarded to be an incarnation of the goddess Parvati. She is believed to cure poxes, sores, ghouls, pustules, and diseases, and most directly linked with the disease smallpox. Sheetala is worshipped on Tuesday[3] Saptami and Ashtami (the seventh and eighth day of a Hindu month), especially after Holi during the month of Chaitra. The celebration of the goddess Sheetala on the seventh and eighth day of the Hindu month is referred to as the Sheetala Saptami and Sheetala Asthami, respectively .[4]


The deity is principally featured as a women’s goddess, portrayed as a mother who defends children from paediatric ailments, such as exanthemata. She also serves as a fertility goddess, who assists women in finding good husbands and the conception of healthy sons. Her auspicious presence promises the welfare of the family, and is also considered to protect the devotee's sources of livelihood. Sheetala is also summoned to ensure refreshing rainfall and the prevention of famines, droughts, as well as cattle diseases.[5]

The Skanda Purana describes her role:[6]

For the sake of quelling boils and blisters (of smallpox) and for the sake of the children, a devotee takes Masūra lentils by measures and grinds them. Due to the power of Śītalā, children become free from the disease.

— Skanda Purana, Chapter 12

Name and variants[edit]

In Sanskrit, the name 'Sheetala' (शीतला śītalā) literally means 'the one who cools'; as an epithet of the mother goddess or Devi revered in Hinduism, 'Sheetala' represents the divine blessing of bestowing relief from suffering, like how a cool breeze relieves the weary traveller on a sweltering day. Goddess Sheetala is worshipped under varying names across the Indian subcontinent. Devotees most often refer to Goddess Sheetala using honorific suffixes reserved for respected motherly figures, vis-à-vis Sheetala-Ma (Hindi: मां māṃ), Sheetala-Mata (Sanskrit: माता mātā), Sheetala-Amma (Kannada: ಅಮ್ಮ am'ma), etc. Sheetala is revered by Hindus, Buddhists, as well as by Adivasi communities. She is mentioned in Tantric and Puranic literature, and her later appearance in vernacular texts (such as the Bengali 17th century Sheetala-mangal-kabyas, 'auspicious poetry' written by Manikram Gangopadhyay) has contributed to popularising her worship.[7]

Sheetala Devi's worship is especially popular in the regions of North India, where she is traditionally identified as an aspect of goddess Parvati, the divine consort of Shiva. In addition to being addressed as 'Mother', Sheetala Devi is also revered with honorific titles such as Thakurani, Jagrani (queen of the world), Karunamayi (she who is full of mercy), Mangala (the auspicious one), Bhagavati (the goddess), Dayamayi (she who is compassionate, full of grace, and kindness).[8] In Gurgaon of Haryana, Sheetala is considered to be Kripi (the wife of Drona) and worshipped in the Sheetala Mata Mandir Gurgaon.[9] In South India, the functions of Sheetala is taken by the goddess incarnate Mariamman, who is widely worshipped by the Dravidians.

Sheetala Puja[edit]

The worship of Shitala is conducted only by women (now men also take part in the ceremony)[citation needed]. She is primarily worshipped in the dry seasons of winter and spring on the day, which is known as Sheetala Satam. There are many arti sangrah and stutis for the puja of Seetala. Some of them are Shri Shitla Mata Chalisa, Shitala Maa ki arti, and Shri Shitala Mata ashtak.

According to common belief, many families do not light their stoves on Ashtami/Saptami day, and all devotees cheerfully eat cold food (Cooked the previous night) in the form of prasada. The idea behind this is that as spring fades and summer approaches, cold food should be avoided.[10]

Iconography and symbolism[edit]

Image of Sheetala

Sheetala is represented as a young maiden crowned with a winnowing-fan, riding a donkey, holding a short broom (either to spread or dust off germs) and a pot full of pulses (the viruses) or cold water (a vital healing tool). In smaller shrines typically found in rural village settings where the attendees are primarily from the Bahujan and Adivasi communities, Sheetala-Amma may be simply represented by smooth stone slabs with facial features painted on, and additional decorative adornments occasionally donated by devotees. Notably, references to neem leaves are ubiquitous in Sheetala-Ma's liturgy and also appear in her iconography. This association with neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves likely demonstrates that this medicinal herb had indeed been recognised as possessing observable physiological, pharmacodynamic effects. Moreover, neem does find extensive mention in the Sushruta Samhita, where it is listed as an effective antipyretic, as well as a remedy for certain inflammatory skin conditions.

Sheetala is a form of Goddess Katyayani. She provides coolness to the patients of fever. According to the Devi Mahatmyam, when an asura named Jvarasura gave bacterial fever to all the children, goddess Katyayani arrived in her avatar of Sheetala to purify the children's blood by ridding them of the fever-causing bacteria, and vanquishing the evil Jvarasura. In Sanskrit jvara means 'fever', and shītala means 'coolness'. In North Indian iconography, Sheetala is often depicted with Jvarasura as her eternal servant. Other deities often worshipped alongside Sheetala Devi include Ghentu-debata, the god of skin diseases; Raktabati, the goddess of blood infections and the sixty-four epidemics; and Oladevi, another disease goddess (some say of cholera).[11]

She is also depicted enthroned in an eight-handed form holding trident, broom, discus (cakra), a jar of abrasia, or a pot full of water, branches of neem, Scimitar, conch. and vard mudra. She is also flanked by two donkeys. This depiction has established her as a goddess of protection, good fortune, health, and power.


In Buddhist legends, Jvarasura and Shitala are depicted sometimes as companions of Paranasabari, the Buddhist goddess of diseases. Jvarasura and Sheetala are shown escorting her to her right and left side, respectively.[12]

Sheetala temples in India[edit]

Shitala Makara Dham (Tilochan Mahadev, Jaunpur)

Some of the notable temples:

  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Mand, Dist. - Mandla , MP
  • Sheetala Mata birthplace, Maghra, Bihar Sharif, Nalanda, Bihar
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Mehandi Ganj, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, PitaMaheshwar Kund, Gaya, Bihar
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh
  • Rejidi Khejdi Mandir, (Kajra, near Surajgarh, Jhunjunu district) Rajasthan
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh
  • Sheetala Chaukiya Dham Sheetala mata Mandir, Jaunpur
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir Gurgaon
  • Sheetala Mata Temple, Khanda, Sonipat
  • Maa Sheetala chaukiya Dham, Jaunpur
  • Shree Sheetala Mata Mandir, Adalpura, Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh
  • Shitla Mata Mandir, Jalore, Rajasthan
  • Sheetala Mata Temple, Reengus, Rajasthan
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Garia, Kolkata
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Una, Himachal Pradesh
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
  • Harulongpher Shitalabari, Lumding, Nagaon, Assam
  • Shitala Mata Mandir, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Kaushambhi, Uttar Pradesh
  • Shitala Mata Mandir, Nizambad, Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Barmer, Rajasthan
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Bidhlan, Sonipat
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir, Farrukhabad
  • Shitala Devi Temple, Gurgaon[13][14][15]
  • Shitala Maa Temple, Samta
  • Sheetala Mata Mandir Anjaniya, Mandla 481998
  • Shitla Devi Mandir, Mahim, Mumbai[16][17]
  • Shitala Mandir, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand
  • Shitla Devi Mandir, Chembur, Mumbai
  • Shitala Devi Mandir, Barad, Maharashtra.[18]
  • Sheetala Devi Mandir, Ranibagh, Nainital, Uttarakhand[19]

See also[edit]


  • Arnold, D. (1993) Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India, Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Auboyer, J. and M.T. de Mallmann (1950). ‘Śītalā-la-froide: déesse indienne de la petite vérole’, Artibus Asiae, 13(3): 207-227.
  • Bang, B.G. (1973). ‘Current concepts of the smallpox goddess Śītalā in West Bengal’, Man in India, 53(1):79-104.
  • Kinsley, D. Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition
  • Dimock, E.C. Jr. (1982) ‘A Theology of the Repulsive: The Myth of the Goddess Śītalā’, in J.S. Hawley and D.M. Wulff (eds), The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India, Berkeley, University of California Press, 184-203
  • Ferrari, Fabrizio M. (2009). “Old rituals for new threats. The post-smallpox career of Sitala, the cold mother of Bengal”. In Brosius, C. & U. Hüsken (eds.), Ritual Matters, London & New York, Routledge, pp. 144–171.
  • Ferrari, Fabrizio M. (2015). Religion, Devotion and Medicine in North India. The Healing Power of Śītalā. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Inhorn, M.C. and P.J. Brown (eds) (2005). The Anthropology of Infectious Disease. International Health Perspectives, Amsterdam, Routledge.
  • Junghare, I.Y. (1975) ‘Songs of the Goddess Shitala: Religio-cultural and Linguistic Features’, Man in India, 55(4): 298-316.
  • Katyal, A. and N. Kishore (2001) ‘Performing the goddess: sacred ritual into professional performance’, The Drama Review, 45(1), 96-117.
  • Kolenda, P. (1982) ‘Pox and the Terror of Childlessness: Images and Ideas of the Smallpox Goddess in a North Indian Village’, in J.J. Preston (ed.), Mother Worship, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 227-250
  • Mukhopadhyay, S.K. (1994) Cult of Goddess Śītalā in Bengal: An Enquiry into Folk Culture, Calcutta, Firma KLM.
  • Nicholas, R. (2003). Fruits of Worship. Practical Religion in Bengal, Chronicle Books, New Delhi.
  • Stewart, T.K. (1995) ‘Encountering the Smallpox Goddess: The Auspicious Song of Śītalā’, in D.S. Lopez, Jr. (ed.), Religious of India in Practice, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 389-397.
  • Wadley, S.S. (1980) ‘Śītalā: The Cool One’, Asian Folklore Studies, 39: 33-62.


  1. ^ "Shitala, Sitala, Śītalā, Sītala, Śītala: 24 definitions". 3 August 2014.
  2. ^ Folk Religion: Change and Continuity Author Harvinder Singh Bhatti Publisher Rawat Publications, 2000 Original from Indiana University Digitized 18 Jun 2009 ISBN 8170336082, 9788170336082
  3. ^ Chaudhari, Ram Gopal Singh (1917). Rambles in Bihar. Express Press.
  4. ^ "Sheetala Saptami 2022: आज है शीतला सप्तमी का व्रत, मान्यतानुसार इस तरह की जाती है फल पाने के लिए पूजा". 24 March 2022.
  5. ^ (2014-08-03). "Shitala, Sitala, Śītalā, Sītala, Śītala: 24 definitions". Retrieved 2022-08-06.
  6. ^ (2020-10-12). "The Greatness of Śītalā [Chapter 12]". Retrieved 2022-08-06.
  7. ^ Mukherjee, Sujit (1998). A Dictionary of Indian Literature: Beginnings-1850. ISBN 9788125014539.
  8. ^ Ferrari (2009: 146-147)
  9. ^ Kapur, Manavi (23 April 2016). "Finding Guru Dronacharya in 'Gurugram'". Business Standard India. Retrieved 5 March 2018 – via Business Standard.
  10. ^ "घर-घर पूजी जाएंगी शीतला माता,जानिए पूजा का महत्व और आराधना मंत्र". 21 March 2022.
  11. ^ Nicholas, Ralph W (2003). Fruits of worship: practical religion in Bengal By Ralph W. Nicholas. ISBN 9788180280061.
  12. ^ Mishra, P. K (1999). Studies in Hindu and Buddhist art By P. K. Mishra. ISBN 9788170173687.
  13. ^ Shri Mata Sheetla Devi Temple
  14. ^ "Sheetala Mata Temple in Gurgaon". Archived from the original on 22 September 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  15. ^ "Sheetala Devi Mandir in Gurgaon city, Haryana". 2011-01-19. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
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  17. ^[user-generated source]
  18. ^ "बारडच्या शितलादेवी नवरात्र महोत्सवावर करोनाचे सावट, आईच सांभाळून नेईल अशी भाविकांची ठाम श्रद्धा" (in Marathi). Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  19. ^ "शीतला देवी मंदिर, रानीबाग".