"Sitalaa, Smallpox and donkeys

David Magier magier at columbia.edu
Wed Sep 6 00:34:09 UTC 1995

> Can someone kindly direct me to literary references in Skt. explaining the 
> connection of the Goddess "Sitalaa with smallpox and her vehicle the 
> donkey? I have been informed that this deity is still worshipped in 
> parts of Rajasthan where an annual festival is held in her honour 
> involving a stick-dance performed by men wearing enormous skirts. Do any 
> accounts or studies of this ritual exist?
> Thank you,
> Somdev Vasudeva

I haven't seen any studies of this, but I did observe the annual
festival -- a truly awe-inspiring one with competing teams of men from
hundreds of villages doing the "Gair dance" on the open ground, and
drumming the rythm for hours all day and into the night. The skirts, as
you say, are indeed enormous, and they swirl very far out as the
dancers twist and twirl and knock their sticks against those of the
next dancer, and then crouch down and strike the ground with their
sticks. I have a few good photos of this Shitala-Mata festival,
including some shots of the puja itself, which takes place on a small
hill overlooking the flat dance-ground. But I really am shamefully
ignorant of the full background and significance of this event and its
elaborate rituals. I shall forward your query to the listserv of the
Rajathan Studies Group, where perhaps someone else is more

David Magier

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