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Goddess Shasti is said to be the goddess of fertility, the one who blesses people with children. Maa Shashti is worshipped by children for welfare and protection. She is worshipped by mother’s for welfare of their children. She is also the deity of vegetation and reproduction and is believed to bestow children and assist during childbirth. She is often pictured as a motherly figure, riding a cat and nursing one or more infants. She is symbolically represented in a variety of forms, including an earthenware pitcher, a banyan tree or part of it or a red stone beneath such a tree; outdoor spaces termed shashthitala are also consecrated for her worship. The worship of Shashthi is proscribed to occur on the sixth day of each lunar month of the Hindu calendar as well as on the sixth day after a child’s birth. Barren women desiring to conceive and mothers seeking to ensure the protection of their children will worship Shashthi and request her blessings and aid. She is especially venerated in eastern India.
The legend of Shashti Devi
Once upon a time there lived a prosperous farmer who had a nice big house, twin ponds, a big garden and paddy fields. He also had seven sons.The wife of the youngest son – was very, very greedy. Although many delicacies were cooked every day and there was more than enough for all, Choto-bou (the youngest daughter-in-law) ate up more than her share on the sly. She would steal into the kitchen when no one was around and drink up all the milk or eat all the sweets. Since they had two big ponds of their own a lot of fish was caught and prepared each day. The youngest daughter-in law would gobble up the biggest and tastiest pieces. Although she did it day after day no was could catch her. Needless to say, everyone in the house noticed that a lot of milk, sweets and fish were missing each day. But no one had any idea as to who stole them.
One day the farmer’s wife called all her daughters-in-law.
“A lot of milk has been missing for the last few days” she told them, “have you any idea who steals it?”
“No mother” said the wives of the six elder sons.
“Do you know anything?” the farmer’s wife asked her choto-bou.
“Yes, mother, I do” she answered.
“Well, who is it?”
“It is the black cat” said choto-bou.
“Are you sure? Have you seen her drink the milk?” asked the farmer’s wife.
“Oh yes, mother, I have” answered the choto-bou again, “I’ve been seeing her drinking milk and gobbling up all the best fish and then running away every day. She’s a sly creature!”
“We must catch the black cat” announced the farmer’s wife.
They caught the black cat the next time it came into the house and gave it a sound beating. The next day all the biggest and best pieces of fish were missing.
“Have you any idea who has taken them?” the farmer’s wife asked again.
“It’s the black cat again” said the choto-bou glibly, “I saw her running away with a big piece of fish in her mouth.”
Again the black cat came in for a thrashing. So it went on, day after day. Choto-bou ate up the best of everything and blamed the black cat every time. Finally the black cat went and complained to Ma Shasti.
“Mother, I can’t take any more beatings when I’m innocent” she told the goddess, “It’s all choto-bou’s fault. I’m going to pay her out when I have the chance, so please don’t blame me then.”
“She deserves to learn a lesson” said Shashti Devi smiling at the black cat, “It is very wrong of her to steal, to tell lies and to let someone else take the blame for her actions. She’ll get her punishment some day, don’t worry.”
Some weeks later a beautiful baby boy was born to choto-bou. The entire house rejoiced as there was no other child in the house. But when they woke up the next morning they were shocked to find the child missing. Everyone searched high and low but every trace of the baby seemed to have vanished. Choto-bou cried her eyes out but there was nothing that anyone could do. You may have guesses already that it was the wrongly-accused and unjustly-beaten up black cat who had stolen the baby when everyone was asleep. She carried the child straight to Ma Shasti.
“Here you are, mother” said the cat laying the child in her arms, “I had told you I’d pay out choto-bou, didn’t I? You’d better look after her now.”
The next year choto-bou had another baby boy. She woke up to find the black cat running away with the baby. She got up hurriedly but the cat was too fast for her. She took off the heavy bracelet from her hand and struck the cat. The bracelet touched its head and the cat started bleeding as she ran. Choto-bou followed the trail of blood and reached the house of Shasti Devi. She found her baby in the arms of Ma Shasti and the other children playing near her. The black cat was seated at her feet, licking her wound.
Choto-bou fell crying at the feet of the goddess. “Mother, this wretched black cat has been stealing all my children from me. Now I see that you have them all. Please give them back to me, I beg of you.”
“I can’t do that” said Shasti Devi, “did you not know that the black cat is an especial pet of mine, my vahana? You kept stealing things day after day and then lied and blamed my poor cat and had her beaten up. I cannot overlook such wrong doing. You don’t deserve to have your children back.”
“Please pardon me, mother, I shall never do such a thing again!” cried choto-bou, “I am very, very sorry that I lied and got your black cat beaten up.”
“It’s no use begging my pardon” said Shasti Devi, “If you want forgiveness, better beg my cat’s pardon whom you have wronged.”
So choto-bou touched the black cat’s feet and begged her pardon, swearing never to steal or tell lies ever again. The black cat felt sorry for her and decided to forgive her. Shasti Devi gave her back her children and she returned home rejoicing. On returning home she worshipped the goddess Shasti, observing every ritual carefully. Shasti Devi was pleased and soon the other daughters-in-law of the farmer had children too. Everyone worshipped Ma Shasti faithfully since that day. Even today, the brata of Shasti Devi is one of the most-observed rituals in Bengal, which mothers observe for the welfare of their children.
Shashti Devi Stotram
स्तोत्रं श्रुणु मुनिश्रेष्ट सर्वकामशुभावहम् I
वांछाप्रदं च सर्वेषां गूढं वेदेषु नारद I
नमो देव्यै महादेव्यै सिद्धयै शांत्यै नमो नमः II
शुभायै देवसेनायै षष्ठयै देव्यै नमो नमः I
वरदायै पुत्रदायै धनदायै नमो नमः II
सुखदायै मोक्षदायै षष्ठयै देव्यै नमो नमः I
सृष्टयै षष्ठाशरूपायै सिद्धायै च नमो नमः II
मायायै सिद्धयोगिन्यै षष्ठीदेव्यै नमो नमः I
सारायै सारदायै च परादेव्यै नमो नमः II
बालाधिष्टातृदेव्यै च षष्ठीदेव्यै नमो नमः I
कल्याणदायै कल्याण्यै फ़लदायै च कर्मणाम् II
प्रत्यक्षायै स्वभक्तानां षष्ठयै देव्यै नमो नमः I
पूज्यायै स्कंदकान्तायै सर्वेषां सर्वकर्मसु II
देवरक्षणकारिण्यै षष्ठीदेव्यै नमो नमः I
शुद्धसत्वस्वरुपायै वन्दितायै नृणां सदा II
हिंसाक्रोधवर्जितायै षष्ठीदेव्यै नमो नमः I
धनं देहि प्रियां देहि पुत्रं देहि सुरेश्वरि II
मानं देहि जयं देहि द्विषो जहि महेश्वरि I
धर्मं देहि यशो देहि षष्ठीदेव्यै नमो नमः II
देहि भूमिं प्रजां देहि विद्यां देहि सुपूजिते I
कल्याणं च जयं देहि षष्ठीदेव्यै नमो नमः II
इति देवीं च संस्तूय लेभे पुत्रं प्रियव्रतः I
यशस्विनं च राजेन्द्रः षष्टिदेव्याः प्रसादतः II
षष्टिस्त्रोत्रमिदं ब्रह्मन् यः श्रुणोति तु वत्सरम् I
अपुत्रो लभते पुत्रं परं सुचिरजीविनम् II
वर्षंमेकं च यो भक्त्या संपूज्येदं श्रुणोति च I
सर्वपापाद्विनिर्मुक्तो महावन्ध्या प्रसूयते II
वीरं पुत्रं च गुणिनं विद्यावन्तं यशस्विनम् I
सुचिरायुष्यवन्तं च सूते देवीप्रसादतः II
काकवन्ध्या च या नारी मृतवत्सा च या भवेत् I
वर्षं श्रुत्वा लभेत्पुत्रं षष्ठीदेवीप्रसादतः II
रोगयुक्ते च बाले च पिता माता श्रुणोति चेत् I
मासेन मुच्यते बालः षष्ठीदेवीप्रसादतः II
II इति श्री देवीभागवते महापुराणे नवम स्कन्दे श्री षष्ठीदेवी स्तोत्रं संपूर्णं II