Basoda or the Shitala Ashtami is a unique festival of India, where stale food is eaten.
This festival is celebrated on the Ashtami, or the eighth day of Krishna Paksha, in the month of Phalgun or Chaitra according to traditional Hindu calendar or the months of March April according to the Gregorian calendar.
It is generally considered to be a festival which is celebrated eight days after the celebration of the festival of color – Holi. Some people also observe it on the first Monday or Thursday after Holi. This festival is mostly observed in the North Indian states like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan etc.
- The mythological legend of Shitala Devi
Shitala Mata finds mention in many legends, particularly the Skanda Purana as the Goddess of Small Pox. She is believed to be both the cause and the solution. The legend that goes is, when Shitala Mata first arose from a sacrificial fire, Lord Brahma told her that human beings will always be devotional to her as long as she carried Urad Dal or the seeds of a specific lentil with her.
Thereafter she went off to pay a visit to the other Gods. Somewhere while along the way, all the lentils that she had turned into the germs of small pox and whoever she visited came down with fever and small pox. The Gods sought her mercy and told her to please visit Earth with her load of germs. She agreed and first arrived at the court of King Birat. King Birat was a Lord Shiva devotee, and though he gave her place in his kingdom and place to be worshipped on; he refused to give her supremacy over Lord Shiva. Enraged, Shitala Mata, released at least 75 different pox germs and all the people of the Kingdom became ill and it spread far. Many people died too. Finally King Birat gave in and Shitala Mata cured all the people. Thus it is said that Shitala Mata must be pleased if one has been plagued with any kind of pox.
- All about Shitala Devi
As the name means Shitala means the cool one,so she must always be kept cool. Shitala Devi rides on a donkey and carries a silver broom, a pot of water, a fan and a small bowl in her hand. It is believed that she sweeps the germs of the disease with her broom, picks them up with the fan and keeps them in the bowl. Then she disinfects and makes the place holy by sprinkling Ganges water from her pot. Symbolically Shitala Mata emphasizes on the importance of cleanliness and hygiene to avert diseases in the wake of season changes.
- Tradition of Basoda or Shitala Ashtami
Basoda, as the name goes means Basi or stale. Thus a unique ritual is followed on Basoda or Shitala Ashtami, where people eat stale food. People cook a day earlier and consume that basi or stale food as it is believed inauspicious to light a fire and cook on the day of Shitala Ashtami as Shitala Mata gets annoyed at the heat. In the morning of the ceremony this food is first offered to Shitala Mata and then consumed as Prasad. Ladies invoke her with incense, flowers, kumkum, water, yoghurt etc. Families pray for their well beings and request Shitala Mata to protect them from diseases such as Pox, small pox, measles etc. The devotees on this day read the stories of Shitala Mata, mantras are chanted, alms are given in the temples and people invoke her to seek her protection and blessings.