Isheeta Sharma

Autumn comes, a sight agreeable,
like the arrival of a new bride:
her cloak, the kasha florets white;
the lotus bloom, her lovely face;
the passionate cries of water birds
are the charming tinkles of her anklets;
and the bowing stems of ripened rice
in fields are the embodiment
of her slender bending form.

Ritusamharam: A Gathering of Seasons
Kalidasa (Trans. A.N.D. Haksar)

Onam falls on September 11 this year, as per the Malyalee calendar. Onam is the last day of the ten-day Malyalee New Year celebrations but it is also a harvest festival. Women dress up in the famous Kasavu or Kerala saris. Fresh blossoms gathered in the morning are used for making Pookkalam - vibrant flower arrangements that adorn many house entrances. The Vallamkali boat race also takes place on Onam in Kerala. But perhaps the most famous ritual of Onam is the Sadya or the nine-course meal served on a banana leaf. All seasonal vegetables are used in the preparation of Sadya and the feast usually ends with Payasam, a traditional dessert.

The Pitru Paksha Shradhha which literally translates into ‘fortnight of the ancestors’ begins on September 13. Traditionalists follow prescribed rituals for ancestor worship during this period. And usually refrain from starting new ventures or buying anything during this period.

Bhadrapada – the second month of Varsha rtu – comes to a close on September 14 with Purnima.

Ashwina, the first month of Sharad rtu or autumn, begins with Pratipada, the first day of the lunar fortnight, on September 15. The clouds have now shed their water and are fluffy and white, floating calmly in the day. At night, the sky is clear and the moonlight radiant. After the vibrant and dramatic monsoon season, Sharad brings a sense of calm. The Vedics also saw Sharad as a season of restoration and quietude.

On September 23, we will witness the Autumnal Equinox. It’s the day when the Sun is directly over the equator of the Earth so the duration of day and night is nearly equal. This is why the day is called an Equinox, derived from the Latin word aequinoctium meaning ‘equal night’.

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