SitalSasthi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is celebrated on the sixth day of the waxing or the dark fortnight of the Hindu Lunisolar month of Jyeshta that falls during the months of May-June according to the Gregorian calendar. It is a unique festival that is celebrated in the form of a carnival. The artisans from all over India participate in the festival.
Significance of SitalSasthi
This festival holds a great religious as well as seasonal significance, as this festival also marks the beginning of the Monsoon which is very important for the farmers of India who majorly depend upon rains for the irrigation of their fields.
This festival is specially celebrated in the Sambalpur District of Odisha where it has been celebrated for the last 400 years by the Utkal Brahmins. They started the ritual of the union of Shiva and Shakti in Sambalpur, where the marriage takes place as the wedding of the humans, with Barat or the marriage procession of Shiva called Jatra, is taken out where Shiva goes to the place of Parvati to marry her. Many such Jatras are seen now in the streets of Odisha, where the Shiva goes to marry Parvati. This festival commemorates the divine union of the Purusha and Prakriti, the union that is the cause of the formation of this universe.
Legend Associated with SitalSasthi
According to Shiva Purana, Tarakasur was a cruel demon who was terrorising people on the earth and the Devas in the Swarg. Lord Brahma had granted a boon to Tarakasur that he would only be killed by the Son of Shiva. He knew that Shiva had gone into a deep meditative state after the death of his wife Sati. As Shiva had no son, Tarakasur was carefree and knew he would never get killed, this had encouraged him to do what he felt like doing. All the Devas prayed to Lord Vishnu and he suggested the Devas arrange for the marriage of Shiva somehow. In the meanwhile, Sati had taken birth as Parvati in the house of King Himalaya. When Sati grew up Sage Narad encouraged her to perform austerity to get Shiva as her husband like no other person in the world was worthy of being her husband. Despite her parents' resistance, Sati performed a severe austerity to get Shiva as herhusband. Devas were worried because Shiva was not coming out of his meditative state and Parvati was intensifying her Tapasya. The Kamadeva struck Shiva with his Kambana to break his meditation who got burnt to ashes due to the rage of Shiva. But when he came to know the reason, he blessed Kamdeva to be reborn soon.
Shiva decided to test the love and dedication of Parvati and found her love to be true and later married Parvati on the day of SitalSasthi. Later their son Karthikeya killed Tarakasur and relieved the world of his tyranny.
Rituals Followed on SitalSasthi
Every year a family is nominated to play the role of Parvati's parents offers the hands of Parvati for marriage with Shiva.
Shiva starts his marriage procession along with other Gods and Goddesses from his temple. Lord Hanuman along with Lord Narsimha leads the procession to the bride's residence. The family of the Goddesses welcome the marriage procession. The idols are kept in a beautifully decorated palanquin, the father and mother and other relatives of Parvati perform the Kanyadanaand the marriage is solemnised. The next day the procession returns to the temple with Parvati. Folk dance, folk music, different forms of other dances and musicare the main attraction of this carnival.