The beauty of Bhadrapada is the beauty of water; water that overflows and overwhelms the earth and our senses. And in the wake of its deluge, it leaves behind the verdant, jewel green of fresh vegetation and the rich, heavy scent of fresh sap and moisture-laden earth. In this season of water, we are all in a sense, seekers of fire. Just as the dense grey, rain-laden clouds obscure the Sun in the sky, so does the water laden environment slow down the digestive agni within our bodies. It is important to nurture our body’s agni through gentle practices.
Self Care Rituals
Regular body massages with warm oils go a long way to help you in feeling grounded when the dominance of water element in the atmosphere makes us feel unmoored. Eating lightly cooked food is preferable to raw foods at this time according to Ayurvedic practices. To help digestion, Ginger is recommended. But perhaps, the impact of monsoons is felt most keenly in our hair. Most of us experience increased hair fall in this season.
Bhadrapada is a good time to return to our almost forgotten body and hair care rituals using Neem. Called the ‘poor man’s pharmacy’, Neem has freely offered us its benefits and healing help for thousands of years. The most commonly used parts are the leaves, which are antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing.
Neem Bath: A bath with Neem water, at least once a week, will help protect your skin against infections and offer healing aid to the skin. Take two to three handfuls of Neem leaves and rinse them. Then add to a litre of water and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool down and let steep for a few hours or even overnight. Add the water and the leaves to your bath water. For acne prone skin, you can strain and store some of this Neem water in the refrigerator for a few days and use daily as an antibacterial and anti-microbial skin toner.
Neem for Hair: An equal part mixture of Neem Oil & Coconut Oil can provide relief from many different kinds of hair concerns – it prevents dandruff, keeps the scalp healthy, moisturises and strengthens hair roots and strands and can help decrease hair fall. Alternately, you can mix Neem leaf powder in Coconut Oil and use on hair.
In the songs and dances, in the paintings and poetry of the subcontinent Varsha rtu is the season of love and longing, of desire and erotic fulfilment. And it is through the stories and celebrations of the lovers – Krishna & Radha and Shiva & Parvati that we have celebrated this season of fertility and fecundity.
It is fitting then that Bhadrapada, the month of stormy rains, is also the birth month for one of the most celebrated pair of lovers in Indian mythology. On a rain-lashed night, the eighth day of the waning Moon Phase in the month of Bhadrapada, Krishna was born and secretly carried away to his foster mother. This year Janamashtami falls on August 11. As the Moon waxes and grows more luminous, Radha too is born, on the eight day of Bhadrapada Shukla paksha. This year Radha Ashtami, her birthday, will be celebrated on August 26. There is undeniable poetry in the lovers being born in the same month, on the same tithi but in two different phases of the Moon cycle.
Shiva & Parvati – the couple whose union represents the cosmic union of Purusha & Prakriti, are also celebrated in this season and month through the three Teej festivals, beginning with Hariyali Teej in the month of Shravana. The next is Kajari Teej on August 6 and finally the Hartalika Teej on August 21, which is also celebrated as Gowri Habba in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Ganesh, the son of Shiva & Parvati, is also worshipped in this month. On Ganesh Chaturthi he is ritually invited home for 10 days and then bid farewell in a visarjan. This year Ganpati comes home on August 22.
Last but not least are the flowers and plants that are favoured by the gods in this month. There is a tantalising reference which states that Suradhipa is pleased if he is worshipped by the flowers of Vakula - Mimusops elangii and twigs of Madhavi - Hiptage madhoblata in this month. Suradhipa possibly means lord of the celestials, which could be a reference to Indra, who not only presides over Dev-lok but is also the god of thunder and lightning.
The other curiosity is the fact that Mimusops elengi, which is also known as Spanish Cherry, does not flower in this season. It flowers in Basant rtu. But it seems that traditionally these fragrant flowers were plucked and sun dried and then preserved. Vakula, which in different parts of India is also known as Bakula, Maulashri and Barsoli, is used widely in Ayurveda. Hiptage madhoblata is also known as Hiptage benghalensis. “The genus name, Hipotage, is derived from the Greek hiptamai, which means ‘to fly’ and refers its unique three-winged fruit known as ‘Samara’. ‘Benghalensis’ is derived from the historic region of Bengal, where it is a native species.” Again, this plant is also used in many Ayurvedic remedies. Its many vernacular names include Madhavi, Chandravallii, Madhavilata, Kurukathi and Madhoi Lata. The use of Madhav as prefix in so many of these indicates the association of Krishna, who is also known as Madhav, with this sweet-scented flower. Perhaps these two plants are beloved of the gods in this season because they offer healing to the body in a season that renders the body vulnerable.