Sheetla Ashtami is also known as 'Basoda Puja' and is a popular Hindu festival dedicated to Goddess Sheetla. It is celebrated on Ashtami during the Krishna Paksha of Chaitra. It falls in the Gregorian calendar in the months of mid-March to April. The Shitala Ashtami Holi is celebrated after the festival, usually after eight days. But in some communities, it is celebrated on the first Thursday or Monday after Holi. Also in some places, Sheetla Ashtami is celebrated on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksha every month, but of all these, Chaitra Krishna Paksha Ashtami is considered the most auspicious.
The festival of Sheetla Ashtami is very famous in the northern Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. The festival of Sheetla Ashtami is celebrated with great fervor in the Indian state of Rajasthan. On this occasion, a huge fair is organized and many concerts are also organized. Devotees celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm and devotion. It is believed that devotees keep fast on this day to avoid diseases.
In 2021, Sheetla Ashtami is scheduled to fall on Sunday, April 04.
Rituals during Sheetla Ashtami:
As per traditions, on the day of Sheetla Ashtami, do not light a fire for cooking. Therefore, they prepare food a day in advance and consume stale food on the actual day. It is a unique practice to offer stale food to the goddess Shitala at Sheetla Ashtami.
Devotees get up before sunrise and take bath. They visit the temple of Sheetla Devi and worship the goddess with 'turmeric' and millet. After performing the puja rituals, they listen to 'Basoda Vrat Katha'. 'Rabri', 'Dahi' and other essential offerings are offered to the goddess Shitala. People also take the blessings of elders from themselves.
After offering the prepared food to the Goddess, the rest of the food is eaten as Prasad throughout the day and is known as 'Basoda' in the local language. Food is also distributed among other devotees and is also given to poor and needy people. It is also considered auspicious to read 'Sheetlashtak' on this day.
Importance of Sheetla Ashtami:
Sheetla Mata is considered an important goddess in Hindu mythology. The goddess is depicted riding on a donkey and holding neem leaves, brooms, soup and a pot. Its grandeur is clearly mentioned in many religious scriptures. In Skanda Purana, the benefit of worshiping Sheetla Ashtami is described in great detail. The Sheetla Mata Stotra written by Lord Shiva and also known as Sheetlashtak can also be found in the Skanda Purana.
According to Hindu scriptures, it is believed that the goddess Shitala controls chickenpox, measles, smallpox and other similar diseases. People worship Goddess on this auspicious day and wish to avoid outbreak of epidemic in their family, especially children.
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