Shitala (Sheetala), also called Sitala (शीतला śītalā), is a Hindu goddess widely worshiped in the Indian subcontinent, notably in North India.[1] As an incarnation of Supreme Goddess Durga, she cures poxes, sores, ghouls, pustules and diseases, acclaimed by Hindus. Goddess Sheetala is worshiped on the eighth day after festival of colors (Holi), on the occasion of Sheetala Asthami.

Shitala Devi
Goddess of sores, ghouls, pustules and diseases
Kalighat Shitala.jpg
WeaponBroom, fan, pot full of water (medicinal water for cure for diseases)
MountDonkey (javarasur)

According to Skanda Purana, when the Gods performed a sacrificial fire ceremony for Goddess Durga, from that fire emerged Goddess Shitala, who was seated on a donkey, holding a pot, and a silver broom, in her two hands. At that moment, from Lord Shiva's sweat was born Jwarasura, who spread disease all over the world. Goddess Shitala rid the world from the disease, and from then onwards, Jwarasura became her servant.

Name and variantsEdit

Shitala literally means "one who cools" in Sanskrit. Shitala is worshiped under different names in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. Shitala is more often called Ma and Mata (‘mother’) and is worshiped by Hindus, Buddhists and tribal communities. She is mentioned in Tantric and Puranic literature and her later appearance in vernacular texts (such as the Bengali 17th century Shitala-mangal-kabyas, ‘auspicious poetry’ written by Manikram Gangopadhyay ) has contributed to strengthen her status.[2]

Shitala is primarily popular in regions of North India. In some traditions she is identified with an aspect of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. Shitala is addressed as Mother, as a seasonal goddess (Vasant, i.e. Spring) and 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 Full of Grace and Kindness').[3] The role of Shitala in South India is taken by the Goddess incarnate Mariamman, who is worshiped by Dravidian-speaking people.

In Gurgaon of Haryana state, Shitala is considered to be Kripi (wife of Guru Dronacharya) and worshiped there in Sheetla Mata Mandir Gurgaon.[4]

Shitala pujaEdit

The worship of Shitala is conducted by both Brahmins and pujaris. She is primarily worshiped in the dry seasons of winter and spring on the day which is known as Sheetala Satam. There are many arti sangrah and stuties for the puja of Maa Shitala. Some of them are Shri Shitla Mata Chalisa, Shitala Maa ki Arti, and Shri Shitala Mata Ashtak.

Iconography and symbolismEdit

Image of Shitala

Shitala 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 healing tool). Among low-caste Hindus and tribal communities, she is represented with slab-stones or carved heads. Sometimes, she is said to be carrying a bunch of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves, a medicinal herb used throughout India since ancient times that is believed by some to be an effective remedy to most skin diseases to this day.

Shitala is the form of folk demi-goddess Katyayani. She gives coolness to the patients of fever. According to Devi Mahatyam, when a demon named Jvarasura gave bacterial fever to all the children, goddess Katyayani came in the form of Shitala to purify children's blood and to destroy the bacteria of fever in blood. In Sanskrit 'jvara' means "fever" and 'shītala' means "coolness". Shitala is sometimes also depicted with Jvarasura, the fever demon; Ghentu-debata, the god of skin diseases; Raktabati, the goddess of blood infections and the sixty-four epidemics; and is often worshiped with Oladevi, another disease goddess (some say of cholera).[5]

She is also depicted enthroned in an 8 handed form holding trident, broom, discus (cakra), jar of abrasia or pot full of water, branches of neem, Scimitar, conch and vard mudra. She is also flanked by 2 donkeys. This depiction has established her as a goddess of protection, good fortune, health, and power.


In Buddhist culture, Jvarasura and Shitala are depicted sometimes as companions of Paranasabari, the Buddhist goddess of diseases. Jvarasura and Shitala are shown escorting her to her right and left side, respectively.[6]


Shitala Makara Dham (Tilochan Mahadev, Jaunpur)

Some of the notable temples:

See alsoEdit


  • 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. ^ Folk Religion: Change and Continuity Author Harvinder Singh Bhatti Publisher Rawat Publications, 2000 Original from Indiana University Digitized 18 Jun 2009 ISBN 8170336082, 9788170336082
  2. ^ Mukherjee, Sujit (1998). A Dictionary of Indian Literature: Beginnings-1850. ISBN 9788125014539.
  3. ^ Ferrari (2009: 146-147)
  4. ^ Kapur, Manavi (23 April 2016). "Finding Guru Dronacharya in 'Gurugram'". Business Standard India. Retrieved 5 March 2018 – via Business Standard.
  5. ^ Nicholas, Ralph W (2003). Fruits of worship: practical religion in Bengal By Ralph W. Nicholas. ISBN 9788180280061.
  6. ^ Mishra, P. K (1999). Studies in Hindu and Buddhist art By P. K. Mishra. ISBN 9788170173687.
  7. ^ Shri Mata Sheetla Devi Temple
  8. ^ "Sheetala Mata Temple in Gurgaon". Archived from the original on 22 September 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Sheetala Devi Mandir in Gurgaon city, Haryana". 2011-01-19. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "बारडच्या शितलादेवी नवरात्र महोत्सवावर करोनाचे सावट, आईच सांभाळून नेईल अशी भाविकांची ठाम श्रद्धा" (in Marathi). Retrieved 12 February 2021.