रवितुरंगतनूरुहतुल्यतां दधति यत्र शिरीषरजोरुचः।
उपययौ विदधन्नवमल्लिकाः शुचिरसौ चिरसौरभसंपदः॥
The hot season, when the glow of the śirīṣa pollen becomes the colour of the manes of the sun’s horses, approached, dispensing navamallikās with their enduring rich scent.
Jyeshtha Amavasya arrives on May 22 bringing Krishna Paksh - the waning lunar phase - to an end. The next day on May 23 the Moon starts waxing as Shukla Paksh begins.
As per the lunar Islamic calendar Ramzaan, the month of fasting and reflection, ends on May 24 with lavish feasts and ritual offerings. This day is also known as Eid ul-Fitr. Colloquially it is also known as Meethi Eid because desserts like Sevaiyan and Sheer Khorma are integral to the celebratory feasts on this day.
Dhumavati Jayanti - the birth anniversary of Goddess Dhumavati, one of the ten Mahavidyas falls on May 30 this year. Dhumavati literally means the ‘smoky one’. She holds a bowl of fire in one hand which represents the inevitability of suffering in life. In the other hand she holds a winnowing basket which represents the ability to separate the illusion of the outside world from the reality within. Dhumavati is believed to enjoy the fragrance of incense. It is also believed that on this day an offering of sesame seeds tied in a black cloth made to the goddess pleases her and can help fulfil one’s wishes on this day.
It is fitting that in this season of scorching heat we celebrate the life-giving waters of the river Ganges.
Ganga Dussehra falls on June 1 this year. It is also known as Gangavataran which translates into ‘descent of Ganga’. It is believed that the celestial river Ganges which resided in Lord Brahma’s Kamandal (stoup) descended onto Earth on this day, as a boon granted to Bhagirath for his long and hard penance. Bhagirath had undertaken that penance to help the souls of his ancestors achieve liberation – moksha. They had been cursed by Sage Kapil because they had inadvertently disturbed the sage’s ritual meditation. However, the flow of this celestial river was so powerful that it could destroy Earth if it descended upon Earth without being gentled. To ease the flow of Ganges Shiva offered for the river to pass through his hair and then reach Earth. After Ganga descended onto Earth, she was taken across the subcontinent by Bhagirath and on this journey, she divided herself into several subsidiary rivers. Worshipping the river and taking a dip in the holy waters on this day at Prayagraj, Haridwar, Varanasi and other places is seen as an act of purification for the mind and body.
In the Mahabharata, the epic mahakavya, Ganges has been described as the “best of rivers, born of all the sacred waters”. In one of the sculptures depicting Ganga as a goddess from c. 500 CE she can be seen standing atop a Makara, an aquatic mythical creature who is the vahana (vehicle) of Ganga. In many regional traditions the Makara has, in fact, been associated with water and its life-sustaining powers. In Grishma rtu especially we can all feel the power of water with intensity - it quenches our thirst and that of the parched earth simmering under the blazing Sun. As the global industrial activity has been slowed to a trickle due to the global pandemic, our rivers and water bodies seem to be rejuvenating themselves, flowing freely across mountains and through the quiet cities. Perhaps it will do us well to take a moment on Ganga Dussehra to acknowledge the strength and vigour of water - the source of all existence and fertility.
The day after Ganga Dussehra is celebrated as Nirjala Ekadashi, which falls on June 2 this year. On Nirjala Ekadashi a water-less fast is observed making this Ekadashi fast the most difficult of the 24 annual Ekadashi fasts. In the epic Mahabharata Bhima wanted to observe all the Ekadashi fasts but because he loved food, he failed at controlling his hunger and fasting successfully. To find a solution he visited Sage Vyasa who advised him to observe a strict water-less fast on only one Ekadashi of the year. When Bhima observed the Nirjala Ekadashi fast he attained the virtues of all the Ekadashi fasts. Since then Nirjala Ekadashi has been a fasting day of great importance. This legend is why Nirjala Ekadashi is also known as Pandava Bhima Ekadashi. The ideal time to break the Nirjala Ekadashi fast is between 5:30 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. on June 3.
As the heat continues to rise, all things that have a cooling effect now become vital.
Clothes from soft breathable fabrics are now preferred. Traditionally, white mulmul was favoured above all others during summers. Mulmul is a gentle, breathable fabric that soothes the skin in the fierce heat of Grishma. And the colour white is now preferred above all others because white, which is also the colour of Grishma, reflects sunlight instead of absorbing it, keeping the body cooler.
Not just what we wear but also what we eat reflects the needs of this season of heat and dust. Buttermilk, made from yogurt, is excellent for this season of heat. It keeps your body cool and hydrated, aids digestion and is also a probiotic drink! The spices used for tempering buttermilk have their own healing properties and health benefits, making it one of the most delightful drinks of the season. Another favourite is Aam Panna which is rich in vitamins and minerals and helps boost immunity as well as aid digestion. Buttermilk is easy to make, one of the many simple regional recipes for buttermilk is the Maharashtrian Taak. You can follow the recipe below to make some cooling buttermilk at home!
- ½ tsp Cumin seeds
- ½ Ginger roughly chopped
- ½ Green chilli deseeded and roughly chopped
- 280 ml Full fat yoghurt
- 550 ml Water
- 1 tsp Black salt or sea salt
- Handful coriander roughly chopped
- Roast the cumin seeds in a dry pan for a minute on medium heat. Coarsely grind the seeds in pestle & mortar. Set aside.
- In a blender add the ginger, chilli, yoghurt, water & salt. Blend and sieve the mix in a pouring jug. This helps get rid of the foam that builds while blending. Add the crushed cumin and chopped coriander. Stir well and chill. Make sure to give it a stir before serving in glasses.