Sheetala Saptami, which falls on Krishna Paksha Saptami of the Chaitra month in the Hindu Calendar, is a Hindu festival that occurs seven days after Holi. A festival celebrated in northern India celebrates Goddess Shakti’s feminine power and incarnation, Goddess Sheetala. Different cultures celebrate either Sheetala Saptami (regionally called Sheetala Satam) or Sheetala Ashtami (also known as Basoda in some regions and cultures), which falls either seven days after Holi (Saptami) or eight days after Holi (Ashtami). While different cultures celebrate it differently, Udaipur majorly celebrates Sheetla Saptami. Some of us might not be aware of the history or significance behind celebrating Sheetala Saptami. Are you also wondering about the reason behind eating cold food on this day? Let’s find out why we celebrate Sheetala Saptami!
Significance and History behind Sheetala Saptami
According to mythology, Maa Sheetala is an embodiment of Goddess Parvati, who manifested herself during the Gods’ sacramental fire ritual (Havan). The Goddess is said to have four hands, one of which holds a dustpan and the other a broom, dawning neem leaves and a water pitcher. Her vehicle is a donkey. Although the first two reflect cleanliness, the pitcher emphasizes water quality for life on Earth, and neem is associated with medicinal properties. During the Havan, a demon known as Jwarasura (literal meaning: Fever-demon) arose from the earth after a bead of Lord Shiva’s sweat dropped to the ground. Jwarasura is regarded as the fever-deity, who transmitted diseases around the world and did damage to mankind. Later on, Goddess Sheetala came to the rescue to cure the illness.
Sheetala Saptami puja is done to ask the Goddess to shield our families and us from heat-related illnesses. It is generally accepted that Goddess Sheetala helps in the prevention of diseases such as chickenpox, smallpox, measles, and other infectious diseases. This is also the reason why on this day, devotees refrain from cooking or consuming hot foods and instead consume foods that have been prepared a day before. The prayer or “pooja”, as we call it, is completed by doing aarti of the goddess.
How is Sheetala Saptami Celebrated in Udaipur?
Maa Sheetla is discussed in detail in Skanda Purana as a goddess who has the powers to overcome infectious diseases. The festival is rather an important one in Udaipur, and people celebrate the same with utmost devotion. Food items such as Oliya, Aaloo ki Sabzi, Panchkuta (ker sangari), puri, bhindi, amchur, etc., are made a day before the festival.
There is a Sheetala Mata Temple outside City Palace’s gate near Samor Bag in Udaipur, where most of the people go to worship the goddess on this day. The devotees get up early on Sheetala Saptami, usually before sunrise, worship the goddess, offer bhog and then eat the special dish of the day, Oliya, which is a traditional rice pudding made of curd, sugar and rice.
Throughout the day, the devotees avoid any freshly cooked food or hot/warm food items and do not light up stoves in the kitchen for the day.
As we know it, most of the festivals in India are associated with some myths and superstitions. Sheetala Saptami is also attached to certain myths when it comes to not following the tradition of eating cold food. People say that by defying the tradition or not following the festival’s story, one may suffer from diseases such as chickenpox, smallpox, measles, or other skin diseases.
Since Sheetala Saptami comes during the onset of summers, and in many ways, marks the start of summer season/transition from spring to summer when a country like India experiences high heat, foods condensed with heat and spices just aggravate the body’s condition and make digestion more difficult. Sheetal means cool or cold in Hindi, implying that our physical and mental condition should be peaceful this season. As a consequence, people agree that basic food can be consumed for at least one day.
Sheetala Saptami’s importance is still high today, as people have found that the belief is also scientifically right. The doctors have also quoted that this festival is good for your whole body since the fruit dishes and cold sweets are full of nutrients that increase your immunity.
Presenting her views on Sheetala Saptami being healthy for mind, body, and soul, expert dietician Shalini Mathur says, “Adding coconut, curd and dry fruits shakes fruit chat into the Stale food prasad makes it nutritious, healthy and also improves your digestion.”
The heritage and culture seem nostalgic and interesting, right? Read about more festivals, and occasions celebrated in Udaipur
UdaipurBlog wishes you a very happy Sheetala Saptami!