विसारि वपुरात्मनः सपदि वासरश्रीरियम्
This day-time brilliance, heated by the lustrous expanse of the glittering sun’s orb which seems to consist of fragments of fire shot forth by the thousands of gusting breezes, bends itself as it expands, its robe billowing into a quivering desert mirage.
Nature has had free reign these past few months. Beautiful blue skies, the vibrant bloom of the last of the spring flowers, the chirping of birds, spring breezes and spring showers… in truth, nature has thrived. And as a result of the lockdown, we have taken the time to look to nature and its daily beauty. In cities like Delhi, which grapple with air pollution, it is after a long time that we have had the opportunity to see a balmy Basant rtu with its breezes and showers and the lingering pace with which it gives way to the heat and dust of a scorching summer. If there has been one silver lining to this global pandemic, it is perhaps this slowing down of our frantic pace and allowing us to place ourselves in the natural flux of nature and its seasons and see the transition from Basant rtu to Grishma rtu.
The Purnima that arrives on May 7 brings Vaishakha mas (month) and Basant rtu to a close. This Purnima is also observed as Buddha Purnima - the birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha.
But before that Chinnamasta Jayanti, the birthday of goddess Chinnamasta, will be observed on May 6 this year. Chinnamasta means “she whose head is severed” and the esoteric goddesses’ imagery holding her severed head in one hand, a scimitar in another with three streams of blood oozing out of her neck is striking to say the least. She is believed to be a goddess of contradictions - one who depicts both creation and destruction.
Narasimha Jayanti will also be observed on May 6 this year. Narasimha is the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of half lion, half man. Devotees observe a fast on this day. When observing the Narasimha Jayanti fast only a single meal is to be consumed on the day before to optimally prepare the body for the day long fast. Parana or the ideal time to break the fast is after 5:40 a.m. on May 7.
The next day, on May 8, Jyeshtha, the first lunar month of Grishma rtu or summer begins with the Pratipada of Krishna Paksh. After the vibrant and energetic Basant, Grishma brings with itself stillness and quietude.
Some of the characteristics ascribed to Grishma rtu in Ayurveda are hot, dry and sharp. Grishma is a pitta aggravating season and all things cooling are recommended, such as watermelon, lime juice, cucumber, steamed broccoli and moong dal khichdi, among others. However, Ayurveda warns against consuming iced or extremely cold drinks during summer because they tend to disturb the digestive system of our body. Instead, Ayurveda recommends drinking beverages which are either at room temperature or mildly cool.
Ancient poets and writers noticed and wrote of the small pleasures of this difficult season. A verse attributed to Bhaṭṭabāna in Subhāśitāvali says, “The touch of a cool breeze upon skin soaked in drops of sweat. The service a sip of cold pure water renders to a mouth tormented by thirst. Resting limbs weak with the exhaustion of a long journey in shady spots. In the hot season, small blessings are to be found all over Kaśmīra.”
Perhaps if we look at our own lives we can see the little joys that this season brings - when we draw the curtains for an afternoon slumber on a hot day, the relief of wrapping our fingers around a cool glass of rose sharbat or nimbu paani (lemonade), the gentle smell of night-blooming jasmine engulfing the warm, moonlit nights and oh, the anticipation of the first sweet Mango of the season. The pleasures of Grishma rtu are small but truly delightful.