Shashthi, “the sixth,” is a GODDESS meant to repre-sent the sixth day after the birth of a child, when it is understood that danger to both the child and the mother has ended. She is believed to protect children from evil and illness. Shashthi is best known in Bengal, where she is worshipped by married women who desire children. She is rep-resented as a golden-complexioned woman with a child in her arms, riding on a cat.
   There is a Bengali belief that women should never harm a cat because doing so will incur the anger of Shashthi. Festivals are held several times a year to honor this goddess. The husband of a family must worship her on the sixth day after a child’s birth. A wife must make offerings to her after the child’s third month. Women who do not have children go to her to ask for children; many other gods are also approached for this purpose.
   Further reading: Donald S. Lopez Jr., ed., Religions of India in Practice (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995); Akos Ostor, The Play of the Gods: Locality, Ideology, Structure and Time in the Festivals of a Bengali Town (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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