Isheeta Sharma

From where appears this glory,
in advent of the autumn,
so splendid and dearly loved?

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

Sharad Purnima, on October 13 brings Ashwina – the first month of Sharad rtu – to a close. This full moon is celebrated as a harvest festival, a time to reap nature’s abundance or Nabanna – the new harvest. But there are also several legends associated with this night. One such legend says that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and wisdom, herself descends down to Earth on this night and asks the inhabitants of the planet ‘Ko Jagorti - who is awake?’. Thus, this night is also known as the Kojagri Purnima – the night of wakefulness. It is also believed that the moonlight that falls on earth on Sharad Purnima is amrit – an elixir for the mind and body. Traditionally cooked foods or sweets, such as kheer, are placed under the moonlight on Sharad Purnima. It is believed that placing them under the moonlight will add certain healing properties of the moon to these foods or sweets. They are consumed the next morning.  

Kartika – the second month of Sharad rtu – begins the next day on October 14. The temperature begins to drop and the autumn breeze becomes cooler – looks like the onset of winter is right around the corner.

Kongali or Kati Bihu, Assam’s harvest festival falls on October 19 this year. Being the last harvest festival of the year for the state of Assam Kongali Bihu is a quiet celebration as the people use this day to prepare for the winters to come. Traditionally earthen lamps called saki are lit in the fields, the granaries, gardens and homes. The warmth of the flames of the diyas stand as a symbol of protection from the cold weather. Another ritual that venerates the rhythm of life is the lighting of akaxi gonga or akaxbonti – lamps placed on top of bamboo poles. It is believed that under the glow of these lamps, the departed souls find their way to heaven.  

Ayurveda ascribes certain qualities to Sharad rtu: cool, dry, light, windy and rough. And all these qualities aggravate the Vata dosha in our body. Hence our routines during this season should try to pacify Vata. As per Ayurveda, layers of warm clothing should be worn as the temperature begins to drop in the second half of Sharad rtu. Colours such as red, yellow, orange and white have a pleasing impact on the mind during this season and hence should be worn. It is ideal to eat freshly prepared warm food to calm Vata. Performing Abhyanga or self-massage with warm sesame oil also helps pacify Vata dosha and bring balance to the body and mind.

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