Sheetala Ashtami, also known as Basoda/Basyoda is popular Hindu festival dedicated to Goddess Sheetala. Sheetala Ashtami is celebrated after eight days from the colorful festival of Holi which comes as ‘ashtami’ (8th day) of the Krishna Paksha (the dark fortnight of moon) during the Hindu month of ‘Chaitra’.
It is widely believed that Sheetala Mata or Goddess Sheetala pacifies several diseases like chicken pox and skin diseases. There is a unique tradition of offering stale food the Goddess on Sheetala Ashtami. As per the traditions, the food is prepared a day in advance and the families do not lit fire for the purpose of cooking on the day of Sheetala Ashtami.
The day is also known as Basoda which comes from the word “basi”, meaning ‘from the previous night.’ The food prepared on the previous day is firstly offered to the Goddess and then it is consumed by people as Prasad from Goddess Sheetala.
Sheetala Mata is considered quiet prominent in Hindu mythology. The Goddess is often depicted as seated on a donkey, holding neem leaves, broom, soup and a pot. Her grandeur has been expressly mentioned in several religious scriptures.
According to the Hindu scriptures like Skanda Purana, Goddess Sheetala controls chickenpox, measles, small pox and other similar diseases. It is believed that worshipping her on this auspicious day can prevent the sudden happening of contagious diseases, especially among children.
In the northern states of India like Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, the celebrations of Sheetala Ashtami are very famous. In Rajasthan, the Basoda festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. A huge fair is organized and several cultural events are also arranged. Devotees celebrate this festival with tremendous sincerity and adoration. It is believed that keeping a fast on this particular day, will prevent the person from several diseases.