Vol. 76 No. 09 (2021): The South African Dental Journal
Sheetla (Shita / Shitala) Mata is revered as the Hindu goddess of smallpox, and now of general ailments. She rides on a donkey, and carries with her a silver broom, a small bowl of water, and wears fan on her head. All of these are symbolic and used to rid a patient and their house of disease. The donkey is a beast of burden that remains calm under pressure, works tirelessly, and endures pain without ever giving up. It’s a reminder to patients who are ill to never tire from fighting their disease, nor lose hope of being cured. These highly decorated and colourful masks are displayed during celebrations, religious ceremonies and even during displays of storytelling. Interestingly all the colours, textures and patterns that adorn these impressive masks all convey specific meanings and messages.