Medicine: Shitala's Scourge

Of all the gods and goddesses in India's teeming pantheon of deities, perhaps none is more fearsome than Shitala. Mythology tells that the red-garbed goddess rides around the countryside on an ass in search of victims, scourging with stinging reeds those whom she finds. Her beatings cause the victims' skins to erupt in festering, angry pustules, their bodies to burn as if on fire. Shitala may be a myth, but her presence is all too real in India today: she is the goddess of small pox. In what some consider the worst epidemic of the century, the disease is now...

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