Goddess Sitala, a deity in Hinduism
, is associated with the dreaded disease of small pox. The occurrence of the disease is believed to be a manifestation of the goddess. According to the Hindu devotees, the disease is medium by which the goddess enters one’s body and becomes one with the devotee. The disease is therefore treated with respect.
The suffering person is given food and drinks having a cooling effect. The patient’s body is rubbed with the leaves of ‘neem’ (Azadirachta indica) tree, which has a cooling effect. This tree is believed to be the abode of the goddess. The association of the cool things with goddess is seen in her name ‘sitala’, which literally means ‘cool one’.
Goddess Sitala is considered as the mother goddess. The disease of small pox is seen as a means of strengthening the body. Once a person gets through the disease, he arises more strong and resistance to various diseases. The disease is thus a blessing in disguise. However in some areas, the disease is also considered as a punishment of the goddess.