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Category Archives: Sharad Ritu

Shishira Rtu

[Ms.B i; January 22, 2014; Dear Mr.Sreenivasa Rao,

I am currently working on indianising the curriculum for the school that I work for. In myresearch, I stumbled upon this article and the one on Sharad Ritu. It is very relevant to the work I am doing, as the curriculum is imparted mainly through stories embedded in local culture.

We are now in the season of Shishira. Would you be able to give a similar description of this season?

Ms.B ; January 24, 2014; what is said about this particular season in these translations is something that I cannot use… these descriptions cannot  be given to children.

I can see that there aren’t many flowers around in this season, but there still are. How are they coping with the cold? How about the birds, squirrels, worms and other creatures? What are the first things to change at the end of Shishira, when Vasantha begins to set in? ]

Dear Ms.B , I wrote the article on Rtu Varnana mainly thanks to my friend   Ms. Venetia Ansell, a Sanskrit Scholar from Oxford University – now in India. I expanded on Rtu Varnana by bringing in Barahmasa poetry and painting, just to make it a bit more complete.

Venetia Ansell is managing a Publishing House (Rasala) www.rasalabooks.com ; and also a website devoted to Sanskrit Literature http://venetiaansell.wordpress.com/ Please check on the latter link; and that could, perhaps, answer many of your concerns.

On that page, under the table ‘Categories’ you may click on Seasonal Poetry . There you will find that Venetia has written extensively on seasonal poetry in Sanskrit; as also on flowers of each season as described in the poetic works of Kalidasa and other eminent poets. I am sure the detailed references would be of much use to you in your task.

As regards Shishira please check on pages 10 and 11 of ‘Seasonal Poetry’ at   the following link for a brief description

http://venetiaansell.wordpress.com/category/seasonal-poetry/page/10/

Yes Maa, I agree. Those translated poems on Venetia’s site are about the pleasures of Shishira, enjoyable delights of lovers within the confines of the bedroom.  They, of course, are   not suitable for children. Those pieces of poetry were created in an entirely different context for the pleasure of a totally different set of readers. In contrast, the stanzas you have written are purposeful and serve your objective better.

I have just tried writing a few lines about Shishira. I now realize how difficult it is to write about these subjects for the children. It calls for a special way of understanding and a style of putting across the information in manner that is at once simple, inoffensive, educative and enjoyable by the children. I had not attempted it earlier.  This is new experience for me.  I am not sure I got it right. My respect for you, therefore, goes up all the more.

See, if the following could be any use to you. Modify it in any way you think best. I am sorry; I have not been of much help to you. Pardon me.

[As regards Yakshi and others you mentioned, let’s talk of them at another time.]

A. Shishira

Shishira Rtu

1. 1. In the part of country we live, Shishira and Hemantha run into each other. That is mainly because, unlike in the North, we do not experience severe winters. Though Hemantha is described as pre-winter and Shishira as late-winter, both the Rtus are moderately cold, and dewy. While Hemantha is colder, Shishira is its diminishing phase. 

1.2. Shishira is the Rtu comprising Magha and Phalguna, the months related to winter’s cold and snug- comfort.  The Shishira Rtu, season, usually starts in January and ends in March. The mild winter gradually gives place to spring (Vasantha), which itself transforms into summer (Grishma).

1.3. The temperatures during Shishira are pleasant, breaking into enjoyable sunshine, evoking images of warmth, the stoking of the fires.    The sun shines weakly and even the moon is pale. Days are short and nights long. Few flowers or trees are in bloom.  During the latter half of Shishira, trees may shed their leaves.  The life-force of the plants lie dormant, waiting to burst forth at the advent of Vasantha, the spring.  These seasons are typical to tropical and subtropical regions. Some, therefore, even call Shishira; the early spring – prelude to Vasantha.

2.1. Shishira is one of the many names of Vishnu (Shishira sharvaree Kara – Vishnusahasranama 97). And yet;   as Venetia says: ‘Śhiśhira is the much neglected step child among the seasons’. It doesn’t seem to have definition of its own. Shishira, unlike Vasantha or Varsha, is not much celebrated in our poetry.  In the ancient days of the Vedic texts, when the Rtus  were counted as five, Hemantha and Shishira were considered as forming one Rtu. Some texts did not even regard Shishira as a Rtu, but called it a month – Shishira Maasa.

2.2. Shishira (magha –phalguna) is the transitory season of cool days; the waning phase of winter, when the season of cool comforts steadily picks up heat gets quietly warmer. Shishira stands at the threshold when earth changes its fabric. It acquires a rather rough surface after the dry winter. Then the earth switches into its explicit warmer mode.

Aayanas and change of seasons

3.1. Shishira marks the Parva-kaala – change of seasons – from winter into spring; from short days into longer days; and from Dakshinayana into Uttarayana.  It transfers from the night (Dakshinayana) of the gods to the day (Uttarayana) of gods. Shishira stands at the head of Uttarayana. 

3.2. The Indian year is divided into two semesters (Aayana): the fiery (agneya) in which the Sun rises higher in the sky with each passing day, spreading heat, blowing winds, and sapping out (aadana) fluids from all living things. The other is the lunar season (saumya) during which the moon is relatively higher up in the sky than the lowering Sun. It pours in (visarga) moisture through the rains.

3.3. The first of these, the hot season, roughly corresponds with the period between the winter (14th January) and summer solstice (14th July). During this Aayana, the Sun’s angle of elevation increases; and the point of sunrise moves northward (Uttara) along the horizon with each passing day. This is known as Uttarayana; and roughly corresponds to the period between 14th January and 14th July.

3.4. The second is the period between summer and winter solstice, when the Sun’s angle of elevation decreases and apparently moves along the horizon southward (Dakshina). This is the Dakshinayana – the period between 14th July and 14th January.

4.1. The turning points (Sankarnathi) fall on or about 14th January (Makara Sankranthi) and 14th July (Karka Sankranthi) when the Sun’s orientation shifts, and when winter and summer change places. Shishira Rtu covers the transition period from winter to spring, from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana. Uttarayana Sankranthi (14th Jan) is celebrated to mark the beginning of the sun’s journey in the northern solstice. On this day prayers are offered to Surya, the visible representation of the God.  This is followed by Ratha Saptami marking the seventh day of Sun’s journey in the north-easterly direction. And, with that the day temperature increases gradually. Ratha Saptami heralds staring of the harvesting season; and, are celebrated as Surya Jayanthi (birthday).

[ This traditional explanation is from the point of view from the Earth.  But, we all know that the Sun does not move; and it is the Earth that rotates on its axis round the Sun.  The earth is titled at about 23 degrees and circles around the Sun with this tilt. It is this tilt that creates the various seasons on different parts of the Earth.

equinox

The tilt of the Earth and its rotation round its axis is very important for the creation of seasons. Supposing the Earth did not tilt round its axis, and had been erect (zero degree), the sun would always have been below on the horizon; the Sun would set and rise at the same time everyday of the year; there would be no variation in daylight hours; there would less sunlight towards either ends of the Earth; and, It would be warm at the equator and cold at the poles. That is to say; with zero tilt,    a single uniform weather condition would have prevailed over the Earth. All through the year, it would have been as if it is the middle of fall or spring; we would have a totally different plant and animal life. Or , it could possibly have been something else; who knows !

With no tilt, the most profound impact on temperatures would have been at the poles where the sun would always circle round its horizon and the temperatures throughout the year would have been uniform.  The day in the Polar Regions would be shorter and colder; the effect on animal and plant life would have been significant without having any ‘growing’ or migration seasons.

Therefore, the earth’s 23 degree tilt doesn’t just give us the variations of the seasons and all the wonderful things we’ll be experiencing from season to season.  The tilt is really important for setting the basic foundations of the environment we take for granted in our part of the world. As you can see, we’d have a very different planet without those 23 degrees.

Having said that; let us be aware that the earth hasn’t always rotated with a 23 degree tilt. Its tilt varies by a couple of degrees every 41,000 years or so. And, that changes the strength of the seasons on the earth as we experience it.  When the tilt is greater, summers are warmer and winters are colder; and, when the tilt is smaller there’s less of a difference in the seasons. Over the last million years the changes in the tilt have   just been 2 or 3 degrees. And, that is huge enough to force huge climate shifts of the glacial cycles that the earth has experienced. Scientists say that the Earth’s tilt is slightly decreasing, which means the variations among the seasons ,  ever so slowly,  is getting less perceptible  .]

5.1. The Dakshinayana begins with pouring monsoon rains beating down the heat and ushering in cool relief, And, as the Aayana ends, the mild winter steps into prelude to spring. Dakshinayana is the life giving season in which all creatures and vegetation thrive. The thirsty plants and animals fanatically drink and soak in the elixir of life, and regain their vitality.   It is the season of life and festivity.  All the major festivals from Krishna Janmastami, through Gauri, Ganesh, and Nava Ratri, on to Deepavali are celebrated during Dakshinayana. This particularly is the Aayana of the Devi – the Mother. Dakshina is also understood as the grace; the feminine principles, the Mother who can create, unfold and manifest. Dakshinayana is the time of receptivity and is the feminine phase of the Earth.

5.2. In contrast; the Uttarayana (Jan – July) is a long period of dry heat, blazing summers and swirl dusty winds. During this uncomfortable season of heat, dust and winds the life withers and dies.  The heat takes away moisture from all living things. It is also the season of ‘hot’ diseases and epidemics. The village minor goddesses such as Sitala (small pox) are ‘cooled’ or appeased (shanthi).

At the same time; Uttarayana is also the invigorating   , new good healthy wealthy beginning.  It is the time of harvest, gathering the fruits of your efforts.  Uttarayana is also the northward noble path (Deva Yana) that leads the virtuous to gods; and, is therefore called Uttarayana Punyakaala. The old warrior Bhishma of Mahabharata lay in wait on the bed of arrows for the arrival of Uttarayana. On the dawn of Uttarayana the Grand-old Bhishma chose to give up his life. Uttarayana is the time of fulfilment, while Dakshinayana is the season of growing up.

5.3. Maha Shivaratri which heralds the true beginning of hot summers, as also the Holi  the festival of colours marking  the burning down of Kama are celebrated during Uttarayana . Shivaratri, it is said, is the remembrance, in gratefulness, of Shiva the Neelkanta who saved the world by consuming the deadly poison thrown up after Samudra Manthan, churning of the ocean. And, Holi, in some parts of the country, is day on which the fearsome Lord Narasimha killed the tyrant king Hiranyakashipu. 

Many of the festivals in Uttarayana are in celebration of male gods. The season of six months from January to July is regarded   masculine in nature, while Dakshinayana is the feminine phase of the Earth.

[  In the ancient and medieval times, Dakshinayana was also the season of re-union; when men travelling on business hurried back home before the rain bearing clouds broke out in torrents; and, when the separated lovers ran into each other arms.

Even for the ascetics, the recluse and the Parivrajakas (wandering monks) the monsoon was a period of retreat. During the four months (Chatur-masa) of Dakshinayana when travel used to be difficult and hazardous the monks in the olden days used to assemble at a place far away from towns for exchange of views and experiences. It was essentially a period of study, reflection and contemplation. The period of retreat commenced from the end of Ashada (June–July) and through the months of Shravana, Bhadrapada, Asvina and ending in the Kartika, the day after Deepavali (November) marking the beginning of  winter ]

6.1. The Rtu of Shishira bridges the winter and hot seasons, marks the transformation of the Earth in its nature and appearance. Shishira stands at the threshold when earth changes its fabric; switches from Devi to Shiva; from thriving into fulfilment. It leads on to way to openness and liberation.

****

B. Birds and flowers

Birds

7.1. Shishira is the season of migratory birds. Every year, in this season, varieties of colorful migratory bird species flock to the   habitats that suit them in Southern India. In these sanctuaries, the arrival of migratory birds commences in the last week of October and continues till February end. 

Snow geese breed north of the timberline in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and the NE tip of Siberia, wintering in warmer parts of North America from SW British Columbia through parts of the United States to Mexico. Photographed here in Ontario (Canada). global ppoulation is increasing after decades of hunting to over 5 million. (Nina Stavlund)

7.2. For instance, birds from North Europe, Afghanistan and West Asia make their home in the wetlands of Malady in Udupi district between September and March. The influx of waterfowls in the wetland crosses 1.2 lakh every winter. The best time to watch them is in January and February. Some birdwatchers say they have identified here even the bird species from Patagonian region of South America. These include different varieties of ducks, coots, swans, birds of prey and many others.

[It appears, during this season, in the warm waters of South India, Olive Ridley Turtles arrive to lay eggs.]

7.3. The other is the famous bird sanctuary at the mini-islets of Ranganathittu along the River Cauvery, near Mysore. During the months of January and February, more than 30 species of birds are found here. About 50 pelicans have made Ranganathittu as their permanent home. The season of the sanctuary is from November to June, when Ranganathittu comes alive with birds of different species flocking there to herald the nesting and breeding season. About 40,000 birds of various plumes arrive here from the cold regions of Siberia, Latin America and the Himalayan regions in North India, to nestle and hatch eggs. They stay throughout the summer and fly away after breeding ahead of the onset of monsoon.

7.4. The migratory birds that arrive at Ranganathittu are of wide variety .They range from Pelicans, Painted Storks, Open Billed Storks, River Terns, Spoon Bills, Night Herons, Cormorants and other birds. A lot of other varieties such as Kingfishers, Hornbills, Wagtails and many other species can also be found. Between February and April you’ll find a greater variety of birds with their breeding plumage are at their finest. And, between April and July, you’ll still get to see the Mother birds with their offspring.

Flowers

8.1. As regards the flowers of Shishira as described in the Sanskrit poetry, you may refer to Venetia Ansell’s most delightful series of posts on Seasonal poetry. Please click here for the link.  

Here, she talks of:” Priyagu creepers, their young shoots bowed under their burden of golden yellow  blossom, outshine the beautiful hue of women’s arms arrayed with jewellery – Ritu Samhara of Kalidasa; 3.18.

; And of Kunda – Jasmine buds that bloom in Shishira and withers at the onset of spring  (Vasantha)  , and  “that shine with a glistening sheen as if stars, terrified of the cold, have taken refuge in the kunda creeper: Verse 3 of Śiśira in the Subhāitaratnabhāṇḍāgāram.

 8.2. The season of Shishira is special, as both winter and summer flowers blossom around this time of the year. While the winter flowering plants do wither away, the summer ones begin flowering around January and February.  “In January and February, winter flowers cease to bloom slowly and summer flowers start blossoming”.

The biannual flower show at Lal Baugh celebrates the culmination of the seasonal flowers of winter and summer.

07in_flower_show_2962833f

8.3. Though it is true that flowers bloom in full in spring and summer seasons, there are yet a large variety of flowers that can decorate and brighten-up your garden with their colour and style in the cold months of January and February. These include, among others: 

Witch Hazel, a shrub which produces sweet-smelling flowers having yellow;

the elegant looking Pansies of white, purple, pink or yellow;

the graceful winter Jasmine glowing in mild yellow  strung along creepers lazing on garden slopes;

the coloured snow Drops that create an illusion that garden is covered with snow drops;

and, the Winter Iris of  deep blue, white and lilac that are refreshingly aromatic having  lemony-vanilla-fragrance

. For details please click here.

 

Flowering trees

9.1. There are a number of trees in South Karnataka that flower during the Shishira Rtu – January and February. The list is exhaustive. But, let me mention here just a few of the flowering giants of January – March:

Booruga (Kannada) – Red Silk Cotton – bearing   large, cup-shaped, crimson flowers that attract a variety of birds; 

Bombax-malabaricum

Muttuga (Kannada) – Flame of the Forest – like many of the other trees in this season sheds most of its leaves before putting forth clusters of bright orange red flowers that stand out amidst  dry and leafless vegetation;

Muttuga

Honge (Kannada) – Indian Beech Tree – the native, evergreen and hardy Honge – that bear small – pea-plant like flowers – in colours  from white to pale purple attracting butterflies;

Honge

Haladi Mara (Kannada) –  The Tree of Gold – bearing large clusters of bright yellow flowers on its crooked branches;

Haladi mara

Another type of Honge –  Moulmein Rose Wood – bearing   bright mauve flowers on its  drooping stalks ;

Moulmein Rose Wood

and,  Pink Tabebuia- stunningly beautiful clusters of  flowers in deep pink with a pale yellow centre  .

Pink Tabebuia

For details, please click here for Karthik’s Journal on Flowering Tree.

This is a wonderful site where Karthik has posted information and pictures of about twenty-six flowering trees that are found in Bangalore. He has also identified the locations in Bangalore where such species are to be found.

 C. You asked what do the birds, squirrels, worms and other creatures do in winter

animals

10.1. Yes, when the weather gets colder, the days get shorter and the leaves loose colour and fall off the tree, it surely is a hard time for birds, squirrels, worms and other creatures. But, animals are amazing creatures and are very inventive. They learn to survive the cheerless winters by resorting to many tactics. They might: migrate, hibernate, adapt to the situation, and find many other ways to see through the cold unhelpful conditions.

You may find these links useful while teaching the children

http://www.kizclub.com/storytime/winteranimals/winteranimals1.html

http://www.learnersonline.com/learners-online-free/preparing-for-winter-where-are-the-animals/

Let’s look at these with reference to moderate climatic conditions, setting aside the extremes in polar and desert zones.  ;

 

Migrate

 

10.2. The birds, for instance, might migrate to far off warmer places if they can fly long distances. Else, they may just fly into a nearby more tolerable place. Similarly, whales, fish etc travel South or move into deeper, warmer waters. Insects also migrate. Some butterflies and moths fly very long distances.  The mammals in the colder regions also move out in search of food. But, this happens only in extreme conditions. And, it is not warranted in South India which enjoys moderate climate.

As regards the insects and termites, they move through holes in the ground downward into the soil looking for winter shelters. Earthworms also move down, some as far as six feet below the surface. Insects, most times, take shelter beneath the bark of trees, deep inside rotting logs or in any small crack they can find.

ladyhiber04

Snakes and many other reptiles find shelter in holes or burrows, and spend the winter inactive, or dormant. This is similar to hibernation.

Hibernate

hibernate2hibernate5

10.3. Animals, like Bears and some bats, hibernate for part or all of the winter. This is a special, very deep sleep. The animal’s body temperature drops, and its heartbeat and breathing slow down. It uses very little energy. Every living thing learns to adapt.

In the autumn, before the onset of winter, these animals are prepared to live through winter by eating extra food and storing it as body fat. They use this fat for energy while hibernating. Some also store food like nuts or acorns to eat later in the winter.

 As regards the insects, every type of insect has its own life cycle, which is the way it grows and changes. Different insects spend the winter in different stages of their lives. Many insects spend the winter being dormant, or in hibernation. It is a time when growth and development may temporarily halt. The insect’s heartbeat, breathing and temperature drop. Some insects spend the winter as worm-like larvae. Others spend the winter as pupae. (This is a time when insects change from one form to another.) Other insects die after laying eggs in the fall. The eggs hatch into new insects in the spring and everything begins all over again.

Adapt

Adapt

10.4. If an animal or plant is to survive it must be able to fit in with the environmental conditions which surround it in its habitat. This adjustment is called adaptation.

Depending on what sort of habitat it lives in, an animal or plant may have to adjust itself to changes in its environment.  In winter, the most obvious changes are those of shortening of daylight hours and decreasing temperature. This is what happens when autumn turns into winter.

Some animals continue to be active in the winter. They however learn to adapt. Sheep, for instance, grow thick fur or wool to keep warm. So do the Rabbits.

Animals may find winter shelter in holes in trees or logs, under rocks or leaves, or underground. Some mice even build tunnels through the snow. To try to stay warm, animals like squirrels and mice may huddle close together.

Food is hard to find in the winter. Some animals, like squirrels, and mice, gather extra food in the fall and store it to eat later. Some, like rabbits and deer, spend winter looking for moss, twigs, bark and leaves to eat. Other animals eat different kinds of food as the seasons change.

Other ways

hibernate3Puffins shed the colorful outer parts of their bills after the breeding season, leaving a smaller and duller beak. Their short wings are adapted for swimming with a flying technique under water. In the air, they need to beat their wings rapidly (up to 400 times per minute) to stay airborne. (Samuele Parentella / www.samueleparentella.it)

10.5. Water makes a good shelter for many animals. When the weather gets cold, they move to the bottom of lakes and ponds. There, frogs, turtles and many fish hide under rocks, logs or fallen leaves. They may even bury themselves in the mud. They become dormant. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, and the frogs and turtles can breathe by absorbing it through their skin.

 

References and sources

The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India by David Gordon White

http://venetiaansell.wordpress.com/category/seasonal-poetry/page/10/

http://www.wildwanderer.com/blog/?page_id=90

http://www.wildwanderer.com/blog/?page_id=147

http://orchidflowers.wordpress.com/2011/01/

http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/animals.html#more

http://www.ypte.org.uk/environmental/wildlife-in-winter-adaptations-for-survival/112

ALL PICTURES ARE FROM INTERNET

 
 

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Ritu Varnana and Barahmasa

From: Venetiaansell 

Dear Mr Rao, I read your post on sharad rtu with great interest.  I am a student of Sanskrit and currently doing some research on the description of each rtu and in particular the flowers associated with each and would be interested to know more. Can you recommend any good books or articles about rtuvarnana in Sanskrit literature? I look forward to hearing from you. Best, Venetia

A. Ritu- varnana in Sanskrit Literature

1.1. Dear Venetiaansell , Greetings. As regards the ritu- varnana in its proper natural sequence, the most renowned, of course, is that by the Great Kalidasa in his various poetic works, and especially in the Ritu-samharam, the melody of the seasons or the garland of the seasons, running into six cantos describing the six seasons of the year; and how with each change in the season, the mood and behaviour of a young lover too would alter. In his other work, the Meghdootam, the intensity of the lovelorn Yaksha is far deeper. However, he weaves his yearning around the clouds; and thus, the description is confined to the rainy season.

In Kalidasa’s romantic poetry; graceful sensuality, colours and the music of love resonate with the world of blossoms and birds. The urges and pains of his nayaka and nayika are shared by the deer, birds, trees and the sky. It is a world where trees long for the touch of a lovely woman as much as a man longs for her embrace.  There is an unspoken bond between the song of the peacock and the lament of the separated lover. The messages of love are conveyed through clouds; and the changing seasons mirror the changing colours of love.

Kalidasa’s nayika adorns herself with blossoms and sprouts of the forest as ornaments and decorates her lotus-like feet with the red dye from the forest tree. She is decked in various fragrant flowers; apadma in her hands; kunda blossoms in her hair; the pollen of lodhra flowers on her face; the fresh kurbaka flowers in her braid ; the lovely sirisha flowers on her ears; and, the nipa flowers that bloom in the parting of her hair .

The nocturnal path of the lovelorn abhisarika nayika is traced   at dawn by the mandara flowers that have fallen from her hair and the golden lotuses that have slipped off her ears (Ritusamharam 2.11-12). Kalidasa’s nayika is not a mere mortal but a yakshi, the very life and spirit of a tree; and the trees mirror her exuberant ardour.

Kalidasa’s virahini-nayika of the Meghadutam, separated from her lover like a lotus deprived of the sun; like a solitary Chakravaka bird isolated from her mate ; and, crestfallen like a lotus withered by winter, is a chaste lovelorn woman, pining for her lover. She sits with her face resting in the cup of her palms, her locks covering her face as clouds cover the moon. She spends her time alone in  her bed with her ornaments cast off;   counting the days of her separation  by placing flowers on the threshold ; by painting the likeness of her beloved , singing songs reminiscent of her lover  and talking to the Sarika bird (Meghadutam 2.20-2.33).

There is dignity in her poignancy, a certain grace in her sorrow. The colors of her pathos resemble that of the wilted flowers and the movements of her eyes and limbs speak of her pain even when her words do not.

If Kalidasa’s Meghadutam is the epitome of the virahini in early Sanskrit poetry, his Ritusamharam is the poetic testimony of how intimately the loves, pathos and lives of the human are tied with the colours and sounds of the seasons. Of all the seasons’, vasanta or spring is especially important to those in love, for the blossoms of spring are like the arrows of Kama. Red is the colour of the spring season everywhere and it is when:

The mango tree bent with clusters of red sprouts kindle ardent desire in women’s hearts

The ashoka tree that bears blossoms red like coral makes the hearts of women sorrowful

The atimukta creepers whose blossoms are sucked by intoxicated bees excite the lovers

The kurbaka tree whose blossoms are lovely as the faces of women pain the hearts of sensitive men

The kimsuka grove bent with blossoms, waved by winds, appears like a bride with red garments.

Ritusamharam (15–20)

Vasanta is also the season when cuckoos sing in indistinct notes; the bees hum intoxicating sweet sounds; and, the travelers separated from their lovers lament. Kama the god of love who wages a war, as it were, on those in love,  fashions his arrows from the mango blossom; his bow from the kimsuka flower; the bowstring from a row of bees. His parasol is the moon; and, he wafts the gentle breeze from the Malaya mountain whose bards are the cuckoos (Ritusamharam 28).

1.2. Another poet and playwright , Rajashekhara (Ca.9th century) in his Kavyamimamsha , a treatise on poetry summarized , for the benefit of the aspiring poets essaying to portray seasons in their works , how the seasons were portrayed in the poetic works prior to his time. In addition, he collated the standards as authorized by the texts. Rajashekhara came up with comprehensive season- descriptions, outlining each season’s basic characteristic features, months-wise divisions, individuality of each month, and the imagery that a poet should preferably employ for representing a season. He also deduced the natural human responses to a given season.

1.3. The great poet Dandin (Ca.6-7th century) renowned for his colorful Sanskrit prose, too, in his Kavyadarsha (‘Mirror of Poetry’) the handbook of classical Sanskrit poetics, mandated that a classic work of poetry (maha-kavya) should essentially include eighteen (ahsta-dasha varnana) types of descriptions including that of the city (nagara); ocean (saagara); mountains (shaila) ; seasons (vasantadi ritu); the moon; the sun rise and sunset (chandra-surya udaya –asthamana); parks (udyana); gardens (vana vihara);water-sports (jala krida) ; pleasures of wine and love making (madyapana surata); wedding (vivaha); discussions with the wise (vipralamba) ; pangs of separation (viraha); birth of sons (putrodaya); state-craft (raja-mantra); gambling or sending messengers (dyuta); wars (yuddha);  campaigns (jaitra-yatra);  and, accomplishments of the hero (nayaka abyudaya).

1.4. The description of seasons thus became an integral part of classic poetry . Apart from Kalidasa’s poetry, there are some beautiful heart-warming descriptions of the seasons in the poetic works of other notable poets too; for instance, as in: Bhattikavya by Bhatti; Kiratarjuniya by Bharavi; Shishupala-vadha by Magha; Naishadhacharita by Shriharsha among others.

2.1. The Natya-shashtra too had earlier directed how seasons should be represented in a drama, especially on the stage through an actor’s performance – acts, gestures, facial demeanours and other expressions.

2.2. The Puranas also evinced interest in season-description. The Matsya Purana has a whole chapter dedicated only to the month of spring; while the Samba Purana alludes to different colours of the sun in the six ritus. The Chitra-sutra in the Vishnudharmottarpurana (c.6th century) prescribes certain general rules for the depiction of each of the four seasons.

3.1. According to Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottarpurana, the depiction of each of the four seasons could be symbolically represented in the paintings by employing certain idioms of expression, such as:

Summer: languorous men seeking shade under trees, from the harsh summer sun; buffaloes wallowing in the mire of muddy waters; birds hiding under a thick abundance of leaves; and, lions and tigers seeking cool caves to retire in.

Rain: An overcast sky, with heavy rain filled clouds weighed down with their aquatic excess; flashes of lightning and the beautiful rainbow; animals like tigers and lions taking shelter in caves; and, sarus (cranes) birds flying in a row.

Autumn: Trees laden with ripe fruit; the entire expanse of the earth filled with ripened corn ready for harvest; lakes filled with beautiful aquatic birds like geese; the pleasant sight of blooming and blossoming lotus flowers; and, the moon brightening up the sky with a milky white lustre.

Winter: the earth wet with dew; the sky filled with fog; men shivering from the cold, but crows and elephants seem euphoric.

[A collection of learned essays by the great scholar Dr. V Raghavan ‘Rtu in Sanskrit Literature’ (1972) published by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha , Delhi, comprehensively deals with all aspects of Rtu varnana  in Sanskrit texts including Rig Veda and , epics and puranas.]

B. the Barahmasa tradition

4.1. With the decline of classic Sanskrit poetry, the ritu-varnana found abundant expression in the Barahmasa tradition. Barahmasa meaning twelve months are based on the lunar calendar comprising months of Chaitra, Vaishakha, Jyestha, Ashadha, Shravana, Bhadrapada, Ashvina, Karttika, Agrahayana, Paushya, Magha and Phalguna. Each two of them are respectively the ritus or seasons of Vasanta, Grishma, Varsha, Sharada, Hemanta and Shishira.

4.2. The glory and characteristic beauty of each season came to be celebrated in a specialized form of poetry, music and art (paintings) as Barahmasa, describing the splendour, aura and magic of nature as it emerges with the change of each season. The expressions of the ritu– theme were rendered highly eloquent with the emotive songs and music; as also by the exquisite miniature paintings depicting the glory and poignant character of each season woven into stories of tender love, separation and reunion.

4.3. The essential theme of the Barahmasa is the passionate yearning of lovelorn hearts, the pangs of separation that each change of season stimulates. Each month bringing a special message to the beloved, every season a special reminder of the joys of love and longing. The nature participates in the world of human emotions and mirrors the lovers’ or singer’s experience of tenderness and pain of love.

4.4. The transformations in nature such as the gentle unfolding of a bud’s petals; or melting of a winter night into dew-drops; or the dark dreadful clouds rending with their roar the sky and the earth and frightening the lovely nayika into the arms of her beloved Nayaka and bursting forth into torrential rains – all become symbolic expressions of the seasons and the state of love of the ardent lovers. The Barahmasa depictions of poetry, music and painting, bind the two confronting worlds, the worlds of man and of nature into one thread.

Barahmasa Poetry

5.1. The Barahmasa Poets over the centuries have used the imagery of the Ritu Varnana or changing seasons to depict different facets of human emotions and moods, varying states of romantic love as they respond and change in accordance with seasons. The songs of the seasons resonate with the heart of the lover and the beloved. Nature as always forms the very companion of the yearning lovers.

5.2.In expressing her lament and relating it to the colours and moods of the seasons , nayika the heroine likens the throbbing of her heart to the pulsating sap of the trees; the trembling longing within her to the drifting movement of the clouds ; and , the agony of her forlorn state to the pain of lonely birds. She is not alone in her anguish; her piquant cry is heard by the deer, the birds and the blossoms that surround her; they too empathize and share her pain. In Barahmasa poetry there is a strong and sympathetic resonance between the heart of the nayika and the world of nature around her, it is a world that shares her romantic urges and longings.

6.1.Let me add; the theme of Barahmasa occurs not merely in regional representations but in classical poetry too. Let’s, for instance, take the case of Kumarasambhava and the Ramayana. Both are epics; but, while the Kumarasambhava is a chaste classic observing all the mandated norms of poetics and other conventions, the Ramayana represents an amalgam of various folk traditions. In Ramayana, the poet attempts exploring the turmoil in the lovelorn heart of Rama the prince of Ayodhya in exile ,after separation from his beloved Sita , by placing his distress in contrast to the glowing beauty of the season; and picturing    how it affects Rama. The poetry here truly transforms into a viraha song.  Rama describes to his brother Lakshmana the sublime beauty of nature that surrounds them; and gives vent to his grief of separation aggravated by the beauty that envelops him. Rama narrates the onset of monsoon in a rather intuitional manner describing the gathering of clouds ; and how they remind him of his brother Bharata and his friend Sugriva are with their wives and in their kingdoms while he is lonely and sad deprived of both. Thus the vein of ritu-varnana in the Ramayana is closer to the Barahmasa convention. In contrast, the descriptions of nature in Kumarasambhava, in the context of Parvathi’s penance, lack such subjective responses.

Radha

7.1. But, the most eloquent and lovely expressions of Barahmasa are through songs and poetry of viraha, music full of pathos of a young woman Nayika deeply engrossed in love. These representations brimming with the finest imagery and most tender emotions, intense longing, lyrical felicity, rhythmic vibrancy and dramatic conflict of the worlds of man and nature, besides their mystic connotations, form the themes of Barahmasa.

7.2. The Barahmasa poetry has gifted the Indian literature with some of its best lyrics forming the heart-touching love-lore inspired by the folk traditions. Pictorially very rich and emotionally most fervent, the Barahmasa poetry, which subsequently had its transforms in art, is a genre of the Indian countryside. These forms of poetry, music and art are uniquely Indian. Its riches , distinctively Indian, are woven into the cyclic changes in nature and into the lives, loves, and woes of the Indian people in a manner that is not known in other literature and art traditions of the world. They are incomparable.

7.3. The Barahmasa themes are mostly entwined with the celestial love of Sri Radha and Krishna. Alberuni (ca.1030) observed that Vasudeva Krishna had a special place in the hearts of the common people who loved to call him by many names. He says; people called out Krishna, out of sheer love, by different names in each of the twelve months; such as: in Margasirsha:  Keshava; Paushya:  Narayana; Magha:  Madhava; Phalguna:  Govinda; Chaitra:  Vishnu; Vaisakha:  Madhusudana; Jyestha:  Trivikrama; Ashadha:  Vamana; Shravana:   Sridhara; Bhadrapada:  Hrishikesa; Ashvayuja:  Padmanabha; and in Karttika:  Damodara.

8.1. The Barahmasa poetry has two basic forms, one, literary, and the other, oral. The oral Barahmasa of the regional dialects later became an important ingredient of the literary poetic tradition. The literary traditions were inspired by the simple songs of the village women pining for the husband or the lover away from her, giving vent to “torments of separation, of estrangement, and feverish waits” ; sung either in the rainy four months from Ashadha to Ashvin or through the twelve months. Literary, Barahmasasare a part of the written literature and are endowed with poetic merit and compositional excellence. Barahmasa, oral or written, as a genre, has five broad types, namely, religious, farming-related, narrative, viraha, and the Barahmasa of chaste woman’s trial.

8.2. Viraha Barahmasa or the seasonal poetry of longing is the most evocative in this genre of romantic poetry. This group of the Barahmasa compositions is inspired by the romantic lore of Sri Radha and Krishna and their beautiful idealized love. The poets charged with Krishna-Radha intoxication recreated the celestial Vrindavana of the Braj country through a class of poetry called ritikavya. Of the many poets in this genre those that stand out are: Bidyapati (1352–1448), Keshavadasa (1555–1617), Bihari (16th century) and Ghanananda (1673–1760).

8.3. Bidyapati the Maithili poet glorifies the sublime love of Sri Radha-Krishna; and charmingly describes the essence of seasons and , in particular , of the lord of the seasons the Basanta the spring : ‘ the rays of the sun in their youthful prime; the golden kesara flower; the fragrant kanchan and Jasmine flower garland; the pollen of flowers floating in the air like a canopy over the patala, tula, kinsuka and clove-vine tendrils;   the koil singing its sweetest note ; tribes of honey-bees arrayed their ranks; the water-lily that has just found life with its new leaves ; and the refreshing and  shining in Brindaban’.

9.1. But, the archetype Barahmasa poetry and the inspiration for all forms of Barahmasa expressions are Keshavadasa’s sublime verses scripted in Brij-basha. The poet Keshavadasa (1555–1617) in his Rasikapriya (a comprehensive compendium of nayakas and nayikas, their moods, meetings and messengers, considered a lakshana grantha, foundational work, in riti kavya tradition), he vividly describes the essential features of the twelve lunar months of the year; and the pain each month evokes in the heart of the nayika at the impending separation from her beloved.

9.2. Starting with the month of Chaitra, Keshavadasa portrays the heroine urging her beloved not to leave her in that month; describing to him the beauty and tenderness of that month. She cajoles him to stay with her; and to enjoy along with her the thrill and ecstasy of living and loving in the paradise on earth created especially for their enjoyment. She convinces him that it is a blessing to be alive amidst that beauty. Such loving requests follow in each of the other months too; as every month has something special that makes separation painful and unbearable.

The following are briefly the suggestive descriptions of Barahmasa according to Rasikapriya.

Chaitra: charming creepers and young trees have blossomed and parrots, sarikas and nightingales make sweet sounds.

Baisakha: the earth and the atmosphere are filled with fragrance and all around there is fragrant beauty, but this fragrance is blinding for the bee and painful for the lover who is away from home.

Jyestha: the sun is scorching and the rivers have run dry and mighty animals like the elephant and the lion do not stir out.

Ashadha: strong winds are blowing, birds do not leave their nest and even the sadhus make only one round.

Shravana: rivers run to the sea, creepers have clung to trees, lightning meets the clouds, and peacocks make happy sounds announcing the meeting of the earth and the sky.

Bhadrapada: dark clouds have gathered, strong winds blow fiercely, there is thunder as rain pours in torrents, tigers and lions roar and elephants break trees.

Ashvina: the sky is clear and lotuses are in bloom, nights are brightly illuminated by the moon, people celebrate the Durga festivities and it is time for paying respects to ones ancestors.

Kartika: woods and gardens, the earth and the sky are clear and bright lights illuminate homes, courtyards are full of colourful paintings, and the universe seems to be pervaded by a celestial light.

Margashirsha: rivers and ponds are full of flowers and joyous notes of hamsas fill the air, this is the month of happiness and salvation of the soul.

Pausha: the earth and the sky are cold. It is the season when people prefer oil, cotton, betel, fire and sun shine.

Magha : forests and gardens echo with the sweet notes of peacocks, pigeons and koel and bees hum as if they have lost their way, all ten directions are scented with musk, camphor and sandal, sounds of mridanga are heard through the night.

Phalguna: the fragrance of scented powders fills the air and young women and men in every home play holi with great abandon.

9.3.The Barahmasa poetry reflects the moods of the lovers in the brilliant spring, sad autumn or monotonous winter; but none is so evocative as of the splendour and awe inspiring beauty of the Indian monsoon. It is uniquely Indian. Further, the Indian attitude to the monsoons is fundamentally different from that of the west. To a common Indian villager, monsoons are a symbol of hope and life; while a westerner might view rain and snow as a sign of gloom and despair.

When the rains come down like blessings from heaven, suddenly the world looks beautiful; the earth smells lovely, and the heart smiles! The bond that India has to rains is much like the colder nations of the North have towards spring. A lot of our happiness and physical well being is associated to raining, raining well and raining in time.

Monsoon poetry

10.1. Whether we are talking about music – classical, folk as well as devotional – dance, painting or sculpture, the rains and their incessant music are a recurring theme in India’s many-splendored art treasure. The diverse dialects of India’s far flung villages are replete with songs welcoming the life giving rains flowing down from heavens like blessings; and their message of bounty. And, they allude that just as all rain water falling from the skies flows to merge with the ocean, all living beings flow finally into the shining pool of divinity.  The divine object of their single-minded devotion is Krishna – the Ghanashyam, dark like the monsoon clouds, the one born on a rain-stormy night in the monsoon month of Shravana. And Krishna the dark one is the icon of the monsoon season and the songs dedicated to him are composed in the soul-soothing monsoon Raga Megh Malhar. The romance of Radha and Krishna, the eternal lovers, is the theme of rain songs. The constant longing of any beloved waiting for her lover to return home is envisioned as an epitome as of Sri Radha.

10.2. As the Krishna-Sri Radha celestial love permeated into folk music and dance as well as into the celebration of festivals, the songs about their love created a treasure-house of KajrisShravan jhoolaschaitis, thumris and other light classical music compositions with an edgy eroticism.

10.3. These soulful songs celebrate various seasons and sometimes the festivals occurring during such seasons, such as Holi in the month of Phalguna. In most cases Sri Radha is the lonely Nayikaconstantly longing and waiting for her beloved Krishna the eternal lover. In other cases it is a Nayikaseparated from her loved one, usually a warrior, in whose context the cycle of the changing seasons is depicted.

Barahmasa Music

11.1. The raga melodies of classical Indian music are in harmony not only with the time of the day or night but also with the seasons of the year. Each raga is personified by a colour, the overall mood bhava, the nature surrounding the hero and heroine (nayaka and nayika).   The raga elucidation as envisioned in Indian music is a delightful amalgam of art, colour, poetry and music.

11. 2. As regards the seasons and the ragas, most of the ragas in the classical music are set in accordance to various seasons. Generally:

Basant (chaitra – vaishakha): the ragas Hindol and Raga Bahar sung early in the dawn are  associated with the festive and invigorating season of spring Basant (chaitra –vaishakha) when kimshuka trees are full with lustrous red flowers; mango trees laden like bejewelled women; pond waters filled with lotuses; breezes loaded with their fragrances blowing pleasantly; the eventides and daytimes enjoyable with the fragrant breezes; air ringing with the passionate cries of male koil birds; and, women brimming with desire sporting in swimming pools like she elephants in heat; and bashful ladies playfully dressed in light silks of reddish hue of kusumbha flowers. The women decked in pearl pendants and in just unfolded whitish flowers of jasmine (mallika) and karnikara; and in red Ashoka flowers.

Grishma (jeshta –ashadha):  raga Deepak sung during the evening of the Grishma (jeshta –ashadha) season of blazing summer light and the grief of separation when men are away from home on work or trade or war. And, the women decked in white pearly ornaments, jasmine garlands, cool silks and dabbed in pure sandalwood paste liquefied with coolant scents like yellow camphor, kastuuri etc laze on rooftops in moonlit nights savoring portions , enjoying music , lustfully   awaiting their   husbands or lovers. Just blossomed bright and fiery safflower kusumabha embrace the tree trunks with tongues of fire. Fragrant lotuses and patala (trumpet flowers) are overlaid on cool waters of the pond,

Varsha (shravana-bhadrapada : Raga Megha or Megh- Malhar or Desh and their derivatives sung during the midday of the rainy season of the Varsha (shravana-bhadrapada); the most romantic of all seasons ; the season of dark clouds rumbling like beats of war drums   , the thunder and  flashes of lightning ,the gentle patter of raindrops and the pageant of rainbows ;  the season that delights the thirsty chataka birds, the lustily cheering peacocks brilliant with fanlike expansive colourful plumage; the season that captures the joy and relief from dry heat, the season that brings life and hope to all existence. The breeze is ruffling the wet treetops of Kadamba, SarjaArjuna and ketaki trees; and the fragrance of their flowers is wafting through the windswept woodlands. The intoxicated women decked in vakula, malalthiKadambaKesara and ketaki flowers and with bunch of Kakuba flowers adorning their ears, are hasting into the bed cambers and into the arms of waiting lovers.

Sharada (ashviyuja-karthika): the serene Raga Bhirav sung in tranquil mornings of the season of bright sun, lustrous moon; glowing blue sky; gentle flowing rivers with clear waters; lakes with abundance of white and blue lotuses and lazy swans floating just after a long flight from Lake Manasa in the Himalayas; trees pleasantly laden, swaging under the weight of flowers and fruits; the transitional phase between rains and winter is blessed with bounty of natureThe green earth is decked with red golden colourful trees; the grand flowers of KadambaSarjaKatuja, Arjunaand Nippa; and of the Shyama creepers as also   flaming red Banduka flowers. The fragrance of those flowers is intoxicating. The joyous women with long, thick, black hair unfurled wearing pendants of pearl and gold   are adorned in white jasmine and colourful lotuses

Hemanta (margashira-pushya) – The season is associated with the lofty raga Shree sung during late autumn twilights.  Winter with the earth wet with dew; the sky filled with fog; men shivering from the cold, but crows and elephants seem euphoric. The lusty women retain body-heat by smearing their bosoms red with Kashmir kumkum and fragrant wood-turmeric (kalliyaka) skincare. And their hair is fumigated with vapours of kaala agaru ( aloe vera resin).

Shishira (magha –phalguna): the transitory season of cool days; the diminishing phase of winter; the season of cool comfort gladdening the hearts of lusty women with Malkoaunsa Raga sung in the chill and silent nights of winter.

11.3. It is said; the Seasonal Ragas can be sung and played any time of the day and night during the season with which they are associated despite the usual rule.

Miniature paintings

12.1. A vast number of schools of miniature paintings such as Bundi, Krishnagarh, Jaipur, Mewar and Marwar giving expression to the Barahmasa concepts and idioms flourished during the mid centuries under the patronage of Pala Kings of Bengal , the Mughals and the Rajputs of Rajasthan. The hill states and even smaller states from Central India too nurtured the paintings of Barahmasa tradition. Datia, one of the schools of painting in Central India, painted a timeless series of Ashtayama, another form of Barahmasa. . These sublime works of art, which gained fame as iconic representations of the seasons and as metaphors for emotions, have inspired generations of artists, poets and lovers. Over the generations, the artists of the diverse schools of miniature paintings have strained to retain the aesthetic values and technical excellence achieved by their pioneers.

2.2. In most of these depictions Krishna is the central figure of love and the embodiment of the magic of the seasons and the melodies specially associated with the season.  Its scenery epitomizes the landscape of the imagination, in Indian painting. The Barahmasa schools lovingly capture the delights, the emotions and the enjoyment of the lovers in each of the six seasons. These pictures do tell a tale; each one narrates an event that illustrates the beauty, love and togetherness in the lives of the lovers. That story is entwined on the splendour of nature that surrounds them, in each season.

C. Ragamala

13.1. During the later periods, say by about the fourteenth century, the music- literature developed a series of short verses, in Sanskrit, called Dhyana slokas meaning verses for contemplation , outlining in brief the characteristics (swaroopa) of the raga expressions (raga –bhava) , treating a raga as a human person (nayaka –nayika) , divine (devatha) or semi-human being (gandharva). It also provided for descriptions of Raga wives, (ragini), their numerous sons (ragaputra) and daughters (ragaputri). This poetry often amorous, illustrates the love of a maiden and her lover.

13.2. This led to the creation of Ragamala (garland of Ragas) School of painting which attempted translating the emotional appeal of a raga into visual representations. Each raga personified by a colour, mood, the nature surrounding the hero and heroine (nayaka and nayika).  It also elucidated the season and the time of day and night in which a particular raga is to be sung. The colours, substance and the mood of the Ragamala personified the overall bhava and context of the Raga. It is a delightful amalgam of art, colour, poetry and music.

The Barahmasa and the Ragamala – series of paintings are the evidence that the native genius in painting had survived the vicissitudes of political history since the days of Ajanta.

13.3. The development of the Ragamala School, however, got rather stunted as its theme lost relevance in the context of the present-day music. Further, the school did not seem to have the flexibility to accommodate and to describe newer raga innovations. The wonderful school therefore has virtually now faded away, sadly

14.1. Yet, the raga-ragini classification is still useful from the historical, academic, artistic and philosophical perspectives; and, could perhaps even help in understanding and performing music.

[ Dr. Anjan Chakraverty who did his post-graduation in Landscapes in Indian Miniature Painting from the Faculty of Visual Arts, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, explains:

http://vmis.in/upload/Assets/Exhibition/23/ragmala/part2.html

Every raga has its special sequence of ascending notes (aroha) and descending notes (avaroha) that determine its structure or that (lit. an array or setting). A raga experience would change from dawn to dusk, from a sunny afternoon to a moonlit night, from spring to autumn, so on and so forth. On the basis of this, ragas and raginis were associated with particular moods and regions, with particular seasons and, categorically, to the explicit hours of the day and night.

For example Dipaka raga was associated with fire and scorching heat while the recital of Megha raga, in contrast, was ideal for the season of clouds and rains, its flawless rendition promising downpour. Similarly, Vasanta raga is meant to express the joy of life in spring and Nata raga, the heroic martial spirit of the man. Bhairavi ragini is the plaintive melody of the morning and raga Yaman is meant to evoke the somber, explicitly devotional mood in the early hours of the evening. However, a raga is not a song or tune, on the other hand numberless songs can be composed in a certain raga-mould.

With a view to emphasize the divine qualities of music, each raga and ragini was attributed with a particular rupa or psychic form. The psychic form was further divided into the invisible sound form or the nadamaya rupa and tangible or image form referred to as devatamaya rupa. It was required on the part of a performer (kalavanta) to imbibe the presiding spirit or ethos of a melody and please the deified form. Raga-dhyanas or contemplative prayer-formulas were devised for the purpose, passed on from the master (acharya) to the student.

In Narada’s Sangita Makaranda, datable between 7th and 11th century C.E., do we come across for the first time a classification system of six ragas as male and six raginis, attached to each raga, as females forming six cohesive families, raga-parivara. However, this system was not followed by the painters.

 It is in the Sangita Makaranda that we find for the first time a classification of ragas according to the proper hour for rendition. Mesakarna or Kshema Karna, a sixteenth-century rhetorician from Rewa (central India), in his treatise Ragamala compiled the elaborate system of six ragas, each with five raginis and eight ragaputras.]

List of books and other references.

Rtu in Sanskrit Literature by Dr. V Raghavan; Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Delhi (1972)

Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara: Original Text in Sanskrit and Translation with Explanatory Notes by Sadhana Parashar, D K Print world, (2000)

Vishnudharmottarapurana: English translation by Priyabala Shah, Baroda (1961)
The Seasons in Mahakavya Literature, by Danielle Feller : (1995 )

Barahmasa in Indian Literature, Charlotte Vaudeville; Triloki N. Madan (1986)

Barshmasa (Agam55) by V. P. Dwivedi

Baramasa: The Painted Romance of Indian Seasons (Portfolio) by Daljeet, National Museum, (2009)

The Flute and the Lotus: Romantic Moments in Indian Poetry and Painting by Harsha Dehejia, (2002)

The Loves of Krishna in Indian painting and poetry by WG Archer

Flora and Plant Kingdom in Sanskrit Literature by Shri Jyotsnamoy Chatterjee; Eastern Book Linkers, (2003)

 Ritusamharam: http://www.giirvaani.net/giirvaani/rs/rs_intro.htm

Monsoon Ragas by Vimla Patil : http://www.esamskriti.com/essay-chapters/Monsoon-Ragas-1.aspxBarahmasa:

Songs of Twelve Months by Prof P. C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet http://groups.google.com/group/mintamil/browse_thread/thread/9b6cabddd8d32161?pli=1

Romantic Moments in Poetry : http://http-server.carleton.ca/~hdehejia/content/RMinPoetry.pdf

Bidyapati’s Description of spring: http://www.indiadivine.org/articles/382/1/Bidyapatis-Description-of-Spring/Page1.html

History of Flowers and Gardening in India By Dr. Jyoti Prakash  :  http://www.cityfarmer.org/indiagarden.html

  All pictures are from internet

 
 

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Sharad Ritu – season of tender beauty, grace and celebrations

sharat ritu

Traditionally, Indian seasons– Ritus – are six, each of about two month’s duration. In the part of the country where I now live, in Southern Karnataka, there are virtually five seasons: a short spring, summer, monsoon, post monsoon and winter where Hemanta and Shishira run into each other. Each of the seasons, – Ritus – has a beauty and splendor of its own. Sadly, we have lost the links with nature and with the songs and Ragas inspired by nature.

Ritu is a division of the year reflecting the change of seasons. The concept of Rtu occurs in Rig Veda also, where only three Ritus are mentioned: Varsha , Grishma and Sharad. Later, the year was further divided and two more Rtus were added. A hymn in Taittareya Brahmana has a beautiful graphic presentation of the Ritus in the image of a bird: Vasantha is the head of the bird called Samvathsara (year); Grishma its left wing; Sharad its right wing; Varsha its tail; and Hemanta its middle part.

Tasya re Vasantha shirahah/Grishmo Dakshina pakshahah/ Sharad uttara-pakshhah/Varshap pucchyam/ Hemanto Madhyama. (TBrh: 1.10.4.1)

It was during the epic period that the seasons were counted as six: Vasantha – spring; Grishma – summer; Varsha – rainy season; Sharad – autumn; Hemanta – winter; and Shishira- cool season preceding the spring. The Puranas (say, Brahmanda Purana) mention six seasons. The Matsya Purana has a whole chapter dedicated only to the month of spring, and the Samba Purana gives a reference to the different colours of the sun in the Six Ritu’s : Kapila ( tawny or yellowish-brown ) in Vasantha Rtu ;Tapta-kanchana (furnace  gold)  in Greeshma ; Sweta ( white) in Varsha Rtu; Pandu (pale) in Sharad Rtu; Pingala ( coppery or reddish brown) in Hemanta Rtu; and Raktha (reddish) Sishira Rtu.

The Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara-purana (5th– 6th century) however mentions four Ritus and outlines their general features.

Summer: Under trees, languorous men seek shade from the harsh summer sun, buffaloes wallowing in the mire of muddy waters, birds hiding under a thick abundance of leaves, and lions and tigers seeking cool caves to retire in.

Rain: An overcast sky, with heavy rain filled clouds weighed down with their aquatic excess, flashes of lightning and the beautiful rainbow, animals like tigers and lions taking shelter in caves, sarus (cranes) birds flying in a row.

Autumn: Trees laden with ripe fruit, the entire expanse of the earth filled with ripened corn ready for harvest, lakes filled with beautiful aquatic birds like geese, the pleasant sight of blooming and blossoming lotus flowers, the moon brightening up the sky with a milky white luster.

Winter: the earth wet with dew, the sky filled with fog, men shivering from the cold, but crows and elephants seem euphoric.

*

It appears the twelve months of the year had at one time different set of names.

Perhaps the earlier names of the months were : Vasantha ( Madhu and Madhava ) the sweetness of spring; Grishma: ( Sukra and Suci)  the blazing light of summer; Varsha: (Nabha and Nabhasya ) the monsoon rain bearing clouds; Sharada : (Urya and Isa) the fertility and mellow of autumn; Hemanta: (Saha and Shahya ) the cold and winter; Sisira:  (Tapa and Tapsya )  the beginning of the hot season.

[Alberuni c.1030 observed that Vasudeva Krishna had a special place in the hearts of the common people who loved to call him by many names. He says , people called out Krishna , out of sheer love , by different names in each of the twelve months; such as : in Margasirsha:  Keshava; Paushya:  Narayana;  Magha:  Madhava;  Phalguna:  Govinda;  Chaitra:  Vishnu;  Vaisakha:  Madhusudana; Jyestha:  Trivikrama;  Ashadha:  Vamana;  Shravana:   Sridhara;  Bhadrapada:  Hrishikesa; Ashvayuja:  Padmanabha;  and , Karttika:  Damodara .]

[The earliest inscriptional reference to Indian seasons and months appears on the Edicts of Emperor Asoka (c.272 B.C.) found at Dhauli and Jaugada. It mentions Tisya Naksatra (Tisya or Pausa) and Chaturmasi (full moon in all seasons). The casket inscription from the time of Meander (c. 115-90 B.C.) at Shinkot is the earliest known inscription to mention a month. It refers in Prakrit, to two months – Karttika and Vaisakha in connection with the relics of the Buddha.]

Later on, two streams of reckoning the months were developed. One was Solar year (Sauramana) based on ‘solar division’ – the diurnal motion of the Sun ; and the other the Lunar year (Chandramana) or based on the ‘lunar division’- the phases of the moon .

The solar year is approximately 365 days and the months are calculated by the sun’s entrance into a particular Rasi or Zodiac sign. These are divided into twelve, Mesha (Aries), Vrsa (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Kartaka (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Tula (Libra), Vrscika (Scorpio), Dhanus (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Mina (Pisces).

The Lunar calendar is roughly around 354 days; ten less than the solar year(*) and its months are named after Nakshatras or constellations in which their full moons are placed. The lunar months lasts from one new moon to the next but it is named after the Indian solar month in which it begins. The lunar month are Chaitra and Vaishakha for spring (Vasantha) ; Jyestha and Asadha for summer (Grishma); Sravana and Bhadrapada for the monsoon (Varsha); Asvin and Karttika for the autumn (Sharad); Agrahayana and Pausha for winter  (Hemantha) and Magha and Phaguna for  later cool season (Shishira).

The poets have sung of the glory of each season either individually or as a garland of seasons. The Great Kalidasa’s Rtu Samhara is of course the most celebrated of all such romances of the six seasons.

[*  It is said; a Solar year actually measures 365.2422 days; while a Lunar year is shorter having only 354.372 days ; the difference between the two reckoning being 10.8702 days , each year. In order to reconcile the difference between the two calendars, an additional month is added to the Lunar calendar once in three years. Such additional month is termed as Adhika –masa. And, the year in which such Adhika-masa is added would thus have 13 months, as compared to 12 months in other years. In the cycle of 36 months, the Adhika-masa would be the 33rd month; and, would commence from the close of the 32nd month – that is , from next day of full moon and up to end of Amavasya. The Adhika-masa would actually measure 32.6106 days.]

***

It is the post monsoon season – Sharad Ritu, which is dearer to me. It is a season of festivals marked by benevolence, grace and beauty. As per the lunar calendar, Sharad Ritu follows the Varsha (monsoon) and precedes Hemantha (early winter). It comprises months of Ashwina and Karthika, which is September to November months in the Gregorian calendar. In the year 2007 , Sharad Ritu commenced from Oct 12, Sharad Ritu corresponds to early autumn in the West but it is not the same.

The nature is at its benevolent best in Sharad Ritu. The oppressive heat of the summer is a distant memory and the chill of the winter is still on its way. The annoying downpour of the monsoon has just ended. The weather is mild, pleasant and refreshing. Sharad is a season of moderation, comfort and peace. It is the season of the middle path.  It is a soothing delight, as its designated Raga Malkauns a pentatonic haunting melody. The rivers are neither dry as in summer nor flooded, muddy brown, twirling with orphaned twigs and overflowing menacingly as in monsoon. In Sharad Ritu, the rivers are moderately full, transparently clear; rippling down the gentle slopes in peals of temple bells.

Sharad Ritu brings a blush to the countryside. The nature is bedecked as a bride with light green, decorated with profusion of colourful flowers and bountiful laden fruit trees with chirping birds. There is peace, joy and fulfilment abounding in the air.

The days are sunny, yet pleasantly cool and comfortable. The skies are clear blue with white cotton clouds floating lazily. The nights mildly intoxicating are slightly chill, clear and cloudless.

Srimad Bhagavatam describes the resplendent beauty of Sharad Rtu in Venu Gitam (Canto 10):

ittham sharad svaccha jalam padmakara sugandhina /nyavishad vayunavatam sa gogopala kochyutaha / kusumita vanaraji sushmibhrunga dvijakula gushta sarah sarIn mahidram / madhupatir avagahya charayangAha saha pashupAla balahaschukUja veNum //

It says; the water is pure, fresh and playing host to the beautiful lotuses waiting to bloom. In the autumn, the monsoon clouds too have disappeared, making way for clear sunshine; the lotuses bloom and spread their fragrance everywhere –padmakara sugandhina.

Flower buds, that had hitherto been soaked and ruined by incessant monsoon rains, now bloom joyfully–kusumita vanaraji – adorning the trees with colour. The aroma and nectar of these flowers attract the buzzing honey bees (sushmi bhrunga). With fragrance, colour and cheer all around, can the cuckoos and peacocks help themselves but sing and dance to their hearts content – dvija kula gushTa sarah sarin mahIdram.

In Sharad Rtu, the cows graze happily and produce abundant milk, bringing prosperity all around.

sharat Moon

The splendid cloudless full moon night of Sharad Ritu is an idiom of glory, peace and joy in the Indian poetics. It is the delight of eager young lovers that long to be with their beloved. The ecstatic beauty of Sharad Purnima is etched in Indian psyche. Its glory, tenderness and joy are celebrated in songs, legends and poems of love. Our classical poets and epics sing lovingly the beauty and joy of the delightful moonlit nights of Sharad Ritu.

Soundarya-lahari meaning waves of beauty, a tantric work in poetic form   dedicated to the Mother, in devotional ecstasy,   calls her Saratchandra Vadana, one with a face as    radiant and blissful as the moon in Sharad Ritu.

atriversedge

The tradition of Rtu-Varnana, describing the seasons, became frequent when such descriptions came to be recognized as a mandatory feature (ashta-dasha –varnana, eighteen types of descriptions) of a Maha-kavyas the major epic like poems

The classical Indian poetry abounds with expressions like Sharadendu vilasam (the glory of the moon lit nights of Sharad), Sharath-chandrika – dhavala-prakasham (glorious brightness of Sharad) etc. The food – loving court jester encouraged by bright cool comfort and a feeling of luxury compares Sharad night, gleefully, to curd rice and ghee (Gritha-supa-samanvayam).

Maharas

It was under the resplendent full moon of Shard Ritu, amidst the mango and Kadamba groves along the banks of the gentle flowing Yamuna that Sri Krishna and Gopis enacted their celestial dance Rasa Leela. It was the night; the haunting melody of Krishna’s flute enraptured the hearts of Gopis. Srimamad Bhagavatham sings the glory and joy of Rasa Leela with love and divine ecstasy. Every region and every language in India cherishes at its heart in lyrical rapture the love, graceful beauty and bliss of that Sharad Purnima. Year after year the devotees throng at the Vraj-bhumi on the Sharad Purnima  under the heavenly glow of the scar- less full moon , to re enact Rasa Leela with longing and elation as an act of devotion  and humble tribute to the love of Krishna and the Gopis.

The Great Poet Valmiki in his Epic Ramayana (4.29.27) talks of ‘The Mountains washed spotless by great clouds and their glittering peaks now shine as if bathed in moonbeams’.

abhivṛṣṭā mahāmeghair nirmalāś citra-sānavaanuliptā iva ābhānti girayaś candra-raśmibhiḥ ||

Kalidasa the great poet of ancient India in his Ritu-Samhara (song of the seasons) sings of the “golden plentitudes” of Sharad Ritu in passages of high lyrical imagery. Sharad is the season of slenderness and grace; of the radiant moon; and of light, floating, soft colored silks. Kalidasa fondly talks of cheerful women dressed in light-hearted elegance of “silks dyed scarlet with mallow juice, delicate silks saffron dyed and shining pale gold veils”.

He compares Shard Ritu to a bride; decked in white as the moon and the swan, adorned with jewels and flowers; moving with gentle grace like the rivers in Shard Ritu. The sky scattered lightly with thin clouds is as a king fanned with a white fly-whisk. The women adorn their hair with jasmine and ears with blue lotus; pine for the beloved. The travelers see in the lotuses the dark lustrous eyes of their beloveds; in the infatuated swans, they hear the tinkle of the beloveds’ golden girdle; and in Bhandu-jiva, flowers look for the gleam of their coral lips. Travelers sigh and pine for their beloveds.

Autumn

Viśākhadatta in his Mudrārākāsa (3.8) sings the tender grace of the Sharad :  The tumult of the rains gradually gives way to the stillness of Sharad.  The sky is free of clouds, water grows clear at the rise of the star of Agastya (not surprisingly says one poet – they heard he swallowed the ocean in one mouthful and are scared stiff) and the torrents of the monsoon become gently meandering rivers once again.  The sound and light special effects – flashes of lightning, drumbeats of thunder – are replaced by a finer beauty, characterized by the superfluity of white, in the bright moon, the swans, the lotuses and the tall kāśa grass.  The world is freshly washed and now sparkles in the sun:

Apām uddhtānā nijam upadiśantyā sthitipadaṃ Dadhatyā śālīnām avanatim udāre sati phale |

Mayūrānām ugra viam iva harantyā madam aho I Kta ktsnasy’ āya vinaya iva lokasya śaradā ||

And, Bhāravi, in his Kiratarjuniya, describes a river whose sandbanks white cows are gradually leaving as if her white silk robe was slipping down. 

**

This tradition of Rtu-Varnana occasionally spilled into Dramas. For instance, in the Bhana plays of the Gupta Era (4th-6th centuries) the tradition set by Bhasa and Kalidasa was continued by including songs singing the glory of one or the other season.

Let me say a few words about Bhana plays ( a type of Rupaka) because not many of the Bhana plays have survived. . The Bhana plays are essentially short dramatic presentations (Prahasana) or burlesque one-act plays which , flippantly, satirized the respectful figures in the society . They are different from elegant Sanskrit court-plays. They deal with the common place and the trivial. They expose the seamy side of urban life and of the court officials, in particular ; and,  debunk the hypocrites  moving under the guise of the virtuous.

These short plays were , usually in monologue, featuring a single actor who assumes the role of a Vita (paramour) or a Dhurta (rouge, swindler, gambler or cheat) . He is described as : a clever and shrewd parasite who  describes roguish exploits (on subjects invented by himself) through imaginary conversations  engaged with himself or with  some one else or  with imaginary persons  (akasa-bhasita).

Generally the eloquent Style is employed ; the subject, which is invented by the author, is treated in a single Act. The Bhana has two Junctures, the opening (mukha) and the conclusion (nirvahana), with their subdivisions.

bhanas tu dhurtacaritam svanubhutam parena va / yatropayarnayed eko nipunah pandito vitah / sambodhano -ukti-pratyukti kuryad akasabhasitaih / sucayed vlra-srngarau saurya-saubhagya-samstavaih/ bhuyasa bharati vrttir ekankam vastu kalpitam / mukha-nirvahane sange lasyangani dasapi ca.

Singing and music, from background , precede and close the performance; and in between also  give musical effects to the imaginary conversations that the single actor  carries on. 

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Usually, the narrator is a Vita who loiters in the locality of the courtesans where he is a familiar figure and picks up conversation with whoever passes his way. He also calls on any courtesan at his sweet will.

Vita is a very interesting character in the plays of this genre. He narrates dramatically, a variety of occurrences as happening either to himself or others. He is generally a cultured, shrewd; but a deprived person; but, very familiar with the ways of the courtesans (vaisika sastra). He is quick-witted and knows how to manipulate courtesans through flattery and sweet-talk . He is truly the man of the world; gifted with jab of the tongue, wit and humor; and has familiarity with arts, poetry etc. He has also a strong sense of friendship and ever ready to help the needy. But his special interest is in enjoyment of worldly pleasures, and the sensuous company of the cheerful, fun-loving courtesans.

On the flip-side; a Vita would usually be one who was once wealthy; but squandered it all through misplaced trust or sheer gullibility or in gambling . Quite often, his family would have disowned him tired of his reckless and irresponsible ways. He is also disappointed in love.

In other words: basically , he is good at heart; but, a looser, incompetent or unable to succeed. He is described as a gallant parasite (Vita) who preys on courtesans and their paramours.

The Dhurta- vita-samvada presents the picture of one such  seemingly clever , experienced, but worn-out Vita, who  finding the rainy season too depressing, comes out seeking some amusement. He has no money either for a game of dice or for a drink — even his clothes are reduced to one garment. He , then  , wends his way towards the street where courtesans live, transacting with  their clients  of various kinds . He , sadly, cannot afford a courtesan, either.  At the end, dragging his feet, he reaches the house of the roguish couple Visvalaka and Sunanda, who were then busily engaged in a  discussion on certain awkward problems of sex-act. He gleefully joins the discussion.

Vatsayana in his Kama -sutra has immortalized the Vita characters.

The three playwrights of this period scripted  Bhana plays to highlight the features of certain seasons: Padma-prabhrur-takam (by Shudraka) and Ubhaya-abhisarika   (by Vararuchi) described Vasantha the spring, while Dhurta-vita-samvada (by Isvaradattadescribed Varsha the rainy season. The last mentioned also carried brief descriptions of Sharad, Grishma, and Vasantha Rtus, as in Kalidasa’s epic poem.

Here is a simplified and abridged version of Sharad as in the Dhurta-vita-samvada:

In the Shard Rtu the veil of the clouds vanishes; moon shines up in the blue night sky; breeze is gentle and pleasant; and whole of delightful existence is filled with intoxicating fragrance of flowers withering gently from the Aasan trees; the lover swims in the scented lotus pond  with his beloved who as the Chakravaka bird is well versed in the secrets of love; the air around is scintillated with the music of Saras birds and the peels of girdle bells and anklets of cheerful beauties playing around the pool whose forehead is adorned with the Bindi bright as the Bandhuka flower.

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Dakshinayana is the Ayana (half year) of the Devi, the Mother Goddess. Dakshina is also understood as the grace; the feminine principle; and, as the Mother who creates, unfolds and brings forth manifestation. Dakshinayana is the time of receptivity and is the feminine phase of the Earth. It is season of re-generation, in which all creatures and vegetation comes to life and thrives. The thirsty plants and animals fanatically drink and soak in the elixir of life, and regain their vitality.   It is also the season of festivity.  All the major festivals from Krishna Janmastami, through Gauri, Ganesh, and Nava-Ratri, on to Deepavali are celebrated during Dakshinayana.  Sharad Rtu, in particular, is the Rtu dedicated to  the Devi.

Sharad Ritu is aptly named after Sharada the goddess of speech (vac), learning and fine arts. She is the presiding deity of the Ritu. Sharad Ritu personifies the mild- glowing beauty, serenity, grace and compassion of mother Sharada. The ten days following the new- moon in the month of Ashwina in Sharad Ritu are celebrated as Navarathri (Sharan navarathri) in devote reverence and in worship of the mother. Display of learning, performance of arts and honouring the learned and the virtuous during Navarathri are all in humble submission to the mother. Bengal has a tradition of commencing the Durga Puja with Saraswathi Puja. Saraswathi is regarded as daughter of mother goddess Durga.

The tenth day of Navarathri in Sharad Ritu, Vijaya- Dashami is one among the three most auspicious days in our calendar. It is the most sought-after day for launching ones hopes and ventures. Vijaya-Dashami signifies rescue of Dharma from the creeping shadows of the unjust, instating the virtuous to their rightful position and the victory of good over evil. On this day, the Pandavas ended long years of their humiliating exile and incognito; the friendless brothers found an ally in Virata and celebrated it with the bonding of young Abhimanyu and Uttara.  On this day, Sri Rama with his consort was enthroned in Ayodhya on return from years of exile and vanquishing the demon king Ravana. It was on this day the Goddess Durga mata destroyed horde of evil forces, restored light and hope in the hearts of the virtuous. It is a day of victory and rejoices.

The later month of Sharad Ritu is Karthika, the month of the infant commander of the divine forces, Karthekeya the vanquisher of evil and darkness. Karthika is the month of lights. Numerous Little lamps are lit in homes and temples to dispel darkness and ignorance.

Karthik-ki-chauth (Karwa chauth) the fourth day after new moon in Karthika is the day when women in the North and Western parts of India fast and pray in loving devotion for the longevity and prosperity of their husbands.

Sharad Ritu, which commences on a pious note of devotion and fulfilment peaks into a burst of sparkling and spectacular lights and lavish celebrations. Deepavali or Diwali certainly is the most popular and the noisiest of Hindu festivals.  Deepavali (array of lights) is a festival of four days, which literally illumines our hearts, homes and streets; dazzles with sparklers and firecrackers; and draws friends and neighbours together in a net of goodwill. It also signifies victory of good over evil, delivering from darkness and leading towards light. It is a festival in celebration of life, its goodness and fulfilment.

As Sharad Ritu nears its end, the leaves on the trees turn from green to yellow to red and to dusty brown. The trees let go the aged leaves, that once clothed, fed and sheltered them; with grace and gratitude. They gently place the departed friends, with reverence, on the floor.

If the spring signifies the exuberance of youth; and the sizzling heat of summer, downpour of the monsoon represent the rigors, vicissitudes and uncertainties of life; Sharad Ritu is the mellow maturity and fulfilment of life before it slides into its evening. It inspires a sense of amazement, grace and reverence towards life. It is the golden mean, away from extremes of burning passions and debilitating regrets. It is the summation of the quality life.

Our seers visualized a life worth- living as spans of Sharad Ritu; not merely, because it is the most enjoyable season but also because it suggests an interpretation and a sense of balance that life should have. That perhaps was the reason our ancients measured meaningful life spans as representations of Sharad Ritu. A young person on threshold of life greets his beloved at the time of wedding “Oh! The auspicious one, the cause of my life, may we live to see a hundred Sharad seasons (subhage, tvamjeeva sharadahshhatam)”.

The Vedic aspirations of living a long, rich and purposeful life are expressed as enjoyment of life as in Sharad Ritu.

Let me live a hundred Sharad Ritus

Let me see a hundred Sharad Ritus

Let me enjoy a hundred Sharad Ritus

Let me hear a hundred Sharad Ritus

Let me live invincible a hundred Sharad Ritus

 

Jeevema sharadahshhatam

Pashyema sharadahshhatam

Modama Sharadahshatam

ShriNavama sharadahshhatam

Ajeethasyama sharadahshhatam

 It is a blessing to be alive as in Shard Ritu.

All pictures are taken from Internet.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in General Interest, Sanskrit, Sharad Ritu

 

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