Sheetala Ashtami 2024: Date, Day, Significance And More

The Chaitra month – which marks the departure of the cold winters and the commencement of the scorching summer season, the Sheetala Ashtami fast is observed by women belonging to many communities across India. Also known as Basoda or Basiyura, the day which falls eight days after Holi, is observed by consuming cold foods or foods with cooling properties in order to brace against the change in seasons. Falling on April 2 this year, common practice involves offering prayers to Sitala Devi or Sheetala Mata – an incarnation of goddess Parvati, who is offered food prepared a day prior – which is referred to as thanda khaana.

Traditional wisdom dictates that food be consumed according to a change in the surrounding weather, the Ashtami day is celebrated in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Bihar. It is believed that this incarnation of Parvati was said to help cure ailments like small pox and chicken pox during the olden days, where a village deity was worshipped for their potential powers. Hence, mothers with young progeny are known to observe the Sheetala Vrat on this day too.

Typically, preparations that are eaten on the day exclude the use of excessive spice or fat – both of which are associated with heat-generating properties within the body. Moreover, dishes that are part of the thanda khaana meal include cooling ingredients like yoghurt – which is also said to be a great probiotic that helps cool down the digestive system after being deprived of food for long hours. A combination of fermented foods combined with probiotics are not only good to increase immunity, but also make them easy to digest.

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Other rituals also include katha or story-telling sessions that are conducted to discuss the pastimes of Sheetala Devi, as well as Randha Pua a day prior, on Sheetala Saptami – where the dishes for the following day are cooked by women in a household. A holy chant or Sheetala Mantra is also recited on the day, to keep ailments and fear in the mind at bay.