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plague of India, which is under her control. Sîtalâ has other euphemistic names. She is called Mâtâ, “the Mother" par excellence ; Jag Rânî, “the queen of the world ; " Phapholewâlî, “she of the vesicle;” Kalejewâlî, “she who attacks the liver," which is to the rustic the seat of all disease. Some call her Mâhâ Mâî, “the great Mother." These euphemistic titles for the deities of terror are common to all the mythologies. The Greeks of old called the awful Erinyes, the Eumenides, “the well-meaning.” So the modern Greeks picture the small-pox as a woman, the enemy of children, and call her Sunchoremene, "indulgent," or "exorable," and Eulogia, "one to be praised or blessed;" and the Celts call the fairies "the men of peace" and "the good people," or "good neighbours.”
In her original form as a village goddess she has seldom a special priest or a regular temple. A few fetish stones, tended by some low-class menial, constitute her shrine. As she comes to be promoted into some form of Káli or Deví, she is provided with an orthodox shrine. She receives little or no respect from men, but women and children attend her service in large numbers on “Sîtalâ's seventh," Sîtalâ Ki Saptamî, which is her feast day. In Bengal she is worshipped on a piece of ground marked out and smeared with cow-dung. A fire being lighted, and butter and spirits thrown upon it, the worshipper makes obeisance, bowing his forehead to the ground and muttering incantations. A hog is then sacrificed, and the bones and offal being burnt, the flesh is roasted and eaten, but no one must take home with him any scrap of the victim.”
Two special shrines of Sîtalâ in Upper India may be specially referred to. That at Kankhal near Hardwâr has a curious legend, which admirably illustrates the catholicity of Hinduism. Here the local Sîtalâ has the special title of Turkin, or “the Muhammadan lady.” There was once a
i Grimm, " Teutonic Mythology," ii. 1161; Tylor, “Early History," 143 ; Spencer, “Principles of Sociology,” i. 229 ; Sir W. Scott, “ Lectures on Demonology," 105.
Risley, “ Tribes and Castes of Bengal,” i. 179.
princess born to one of the Mughal Emperors, who, according to the traditions of the dynasty, when many of the chief ladies of the harem were of Hindu birth, had a warm sympathy for her ancestral faith. So she made a pilgrimage to Hardwar, and thence set off to visit the holy shrines situated in the upper course of the Ganges. When she reached the holy land of Badarinâth, the god himself appeared to her in a dream, and warned her that she being a Musalmân, her intrusion into his domains would probably encourage the attacks of the infidel. So he ordered her to return and take up her abode in Kankhal, where as a reward for her piety she should after her death become the guardian goddess of children and be deified as a manifestation of Sîtalâ. So after her death a temple was erected on the site of her tomb, and she receives the homage of multitudes of pilgrims. There is another noted shrine of Sîtalâ at Râêwala, in the Dehra Dûn District. She is a Satî, Gândharî, the wife of Dhritarâshtra, the mother of Duryodhana. When Dhritarashtra, through the force of his divine absorption, was consumed with fire at Sapta-srota, near Hardwâr, Gândhâri also jumped into the fire and became Satî with her husband. Then, in recognition of her piety, the gods blessed her with the boon that in the Iron Age she should become the guardian deity of children and the goddess of small-pox in particular. Another noted Sîtalâ in this part of the country is the deity known as Ujalî Mâtâ, or the White Mother," who has a shrine in the Muzaffarnagar District. Here vast crowds assemble, and women make vows at her temple for the boon of sons, and when a child is born they take it there and perform their vow by making the necessary offering to the goddess. One peculiarity of the worship of the Kankhal goddess and of Ujalî Mâtâ is that calves are released at her shrine. This can hardly be anything else but a survival of the rite of cattle slaughter, and this is one of many indications that the worship of Sîtalâ is a most primitive cult, and probably of indigenous origin.
Sîtalâ, according to one story, is only the eldest of a band
of seven sisters, by whom the pustular group of diseases is supposed to be caused. So the charmer Lilith has twelve daughters, who are the twelve kinds of fevers, and this arrangement of diseases or evil spirits in categories of sevens or twelves is found in the Chaldaic magic.' Similarly in the older Indian mythology we have the seven Mâtris, the seven oceans, the seven Rishis, the seven Adityas and Dânavas, and the seven horses of the sun, and numerous other combinations of this mystic number. One list gives their names as Sîtalâ, Masânî, Basanti, Mahâ Mâî, Polandê, Lamkariyâ, and Agwânî.? We shall meet Masânî or Masân, the deity of the cremation ground, in another connection. Basantî is the "yellow goddess,” so called probably on account of the colour of the skin in these diseases. Maha Mâî is merely “the great Mother.” Polamdê is possibly “she who makes the body soft or flabby,” and Lamkariyâ, " she that hasteneth.” Agwânî is said to mean “the leader,” and by one account, Agwân, who has twenty-five thousand votaries, according to the last census returns, in the North-West Provinces, is the son of Râja Ben, or Vena, and the brother of the small-pox sisters. At Hardwâr they give the names of the seven sisters as Sitalâ, Sedala, Runukî, Jhunukî, Mihilâ, Merhalâ, and Mandilâ, a set of names which smacks of some modification of an aboriginal cultus.
Their shrines cluster round the special shrine of Sîtalâ, and the villagers to the west of the North-West Provinces call them her Khidmatgârs, or body servants. of the shrines again, as at Kankhal, we find a group of minor shrines, which by one explanation are called the shrines of the other disease godlings. Villagers say that when disease appears in a family, the housewife comes and makes a vow, and if the patient recovers she makes a little shrine to the peculiar form of Devî which she considers responsible for the illness. The Brâhmans say that these minor shrines are in honour of the Yoginîs, who are usually
1 Leland, “Etruscan Roman Remains," 153.