I have seen temples dedicated to Sheetala in north India. In south India, the premier contagion goddess is Mariamman – from the word “Mari” meaning both pox and transformation. In the north of India, she is known as the goddess Sheetala, meaning “the cold one” – a nod to her ability to cool fevers. Sheetala carries a pot of healing water, a broom to sweep away dirt, a branch of the indigenous Neem tree – said to cure skin and breathing disorders – and a jar of ambrosia for eternal life. Mariamman, on the other hand, carries a scimitar with which to smite and decapitate the demons of virulence and illness.
In Bangalore, Mariamman transformed from a cholera goddess into the protector of drivers. Now known as “Traffic Circle Amman,” the goddess’s temple sees cars and trucks line up everyday for blessings, before drivers face the deadly maelstrom of city traffic.
However, I have been seeing a temple dedicated to "Sri Plegamma" on the Bannerghatta-Anekal Road, and realized that this is Plague-Amma.
Here is the temple:
On the faded name-board, you can now barely make out the words "Sri Plegamma" in Kannada:
The temple was closed early in the morning, but here is the presiding deity, represented at the entrance:
Here is one of the demons that guard the corners of the temple:
My friend Adnan told me about
Titled, "Bangalore Still Worships Goddess Of Plague: Plague Amma To Cure Themselves Of Diseases And COVID-19" the article talks about plague in 1898.
"It was brought into the city of Bangalore by a railway employee who landed first in the cantonment region (the area of the military) of Bangalore. It killed around 10% of the population at that time and 2.6% of the people of the Mysore Kingdom.
"It is at this time that the goddess Mariamma, who has different labels such as Muthu Mariamman and Thandu Mariamman, was soon appropriated into the Plague Mariamman! Many temples dedicated to the goddess were built around the Basavanagudi region.
"It is said that even today, people go to temples such as Seethala Matha and Renuka Devi to perform rituals and cure themselves of diseases.
"How Was The Plague Tackled?
The British government took drastic measures to contain the plague. Hospitals were built to accommodate patients, which also improved healthcare conditions for handling the Spanish flu that would come to India in 1918. Cities developed and improved, people were offered money for bringing dead rats and mass migrations were banned.
"While science did its job, people also resorted to rituals and worshipping to find some hope. Flower offerings and blood sacrifices were a common practice.
"After recovery, patients participated in self-flagellation and painful piercings. Devotees were also injected with a milder form of pus, which the goddess was believed to possess and cure. It’s like a ritualistic version of the vaccine!
"Upper caste people of the region condemned such a practice as they believed it belonged only to the lower caste."
is another link describing the "goddesses of contagion", which incorporates this video:
The goddesses act as “celestial epidemiologists” curing illness. But if angered they can also inflict disease such as poxes, plagues, sores, fevers, tuberculosis and malaria. They are both poison and cure, says the video.
The author says: One of the first images of a contagion goddess recorded is of the demon-turned-goddess Hariti, carved and worshipped during the deadly Justinian plague of Rome that came to India via trade routes, killing between 25 to 100 million people globally. In the late 19th century, my hometown of Bangalore suffered an epidemic of bubonic plague, which required the services of a contagion goddess. British colonial documents record the repeated waves of illness that stalked the city, and the desperate pleas to a goddess named “Plague Amma.”
While controversies over temples reopening dominates the news, a new deity, crafted from polystyrene and called “Corona Devi” has been installed in a temple dedicated to the pox goddess. Mr. Anilan, the priest and single devotee, says he will offer worship for “Corona Warriors” – health care workers, firefighters, and other front line personnel. Here science and faith are not seen as inimical to one another, but as working together, hand-in-glove.
I am still unable to get the history of this particular "Sri Plegamma" temple on the Bannerghatta-Anekal Road, but it must, no doubt, be similar to those of the other temples to the goddesses of contagion. And as the author remarks:
"COVID-19 has undoubtedly increased the goddesses’ workload. And with no known cure and no viable vaccine, the contagion goddesses may well have their hands full for some time."