Sitala in Spring: Festival of the Bengali Goddess of Health and Ills
Producer: South Asia Studies
Director: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Length: 30 minutes
The month of magh (jan.-Feb.) is a transitional month between the cold season and the approaching summer. Since the hot summer season is a time of fevers and disease, magh is a time of anticipating the period when Sitala, goddess of health and illnesses, will require "cooling down." This documentary shows devotees and religious professionals participating in a two-day festival celebrating Sitala in spring. During the first day, images of Sitala are taken from her various temples throughout the neighborhood and carried through the streets to the Hoogley, a tributary of the Ganges River. There she is bathed ("cooled") and worshipped by her devotees. Several devotees tell stories about "ma's" healing grace. The second day features blood sacrifices to the goddess (including one scene of 10 goats being beheaded) and homa fire offerings, accompanied by petitions to Sitala to protect those who love her during the coming year. Filmed in the Shalkiya section of Hoara, outside Calcutta, West Bengal.