Shravana mas brings with it the season of rains – Varsha rtu. The first of the two lunar months that comprise Varsha Rtu, Shravan is a welcome change of pace after the heat of summers. In the earliest mentions of seasons and months in Vedic literature, Shravana and Bhadrapada were known as ‘Nabha and Nabhasya’ - the ‘Clouds and Skies of the rainy months’.
As the life-giving waters of monsoon nourish the parched earth, making it fertile and fecund, there is a palpable shift in energy. For it is in Shravana mas, when the elements of Water and Wind become dominant, that Uttarayana gives way to Dakshinayana. The transition from the masculine energy of the first half of the year to the fluid, feminine energy of Dakshinayana takes place on July 16, which is also known as Karka Sankranti. The division of the year into two halves with distinctive energy is predicated upon the impact of the Sun. In Dakshinayana the heat and intensity of the Sun gradually lessens, the days become shorter and progressively cooler.
Once upon a time our lifestyles and ritual practices were deeply aligned with the seasonal changes and shifts. As with all seasons and months, the change in environment in this month has an impact on our bodies and minds. Varsha rtu has been celebrated as the season of love, lovers and consummation. But traditionally, it was also the time when the focus of our practices shifted inwards. In this month of energy transition, mediation practices are beneficial for centring our minds. For the body Ayurveda posits that Varsha rtu is when aggravations or imbalances in doshas (especially Vata and Pitta) can become more pronounced. Usually this imbalance in doshas is accompanied by a weakening of the digestive fire or Jathar Agni. Traditionally, Ayurveda recommends monsoons as the period for detoxification and rejuvenation of the body. So, in the month of Sharavan, the first month of Varsha rtu it is important to take care of our bodies.
Self Care Rituals
Abhayanga: The traditional Ayurvedic practice of regularly massaging the body with gently warmed oil is very beneficial during this month. It helps ground the mind and nourish the body. It also helps counter an imbalance of Vata dosha. You can use a traditional seed oil like Sesame, which is warming and grounding for the body. Or you can use a medicated Ayurvedic oil. Avoid lighter, cooling oils like Coconut during this season.
Since the digestive fire weakens during Varsha rtu, Ayurvedic practices recommend eating light foods to support the digestive fire. Many practitioners recommend the use of infusions or herbs and spices that help the digestion.
Ginger: In Ayurveda this spice is one of the most highly regarded spices, often called ‘Vishwabhesaj’ or universal medicine. Dry Ginger powder is stimulant that increases digestive fire – it can be taken mixed with honey or with rock salt. For Ginger Tea – steep a teaspoon of freshly grated Ginger in half a cup of hot water for a few minutes. Strain and drink or add a little honey for taste and drink warm.
Coriander, Cumin & Fennel Tea: This is a general, all-purpose Ayurvedic Tea with many benefits. It serves to strengthen digestive fire, increase elimination of waste and improve gut health, decrease bloating, acidity and flatulence, and help with inflammation. The specific combination of these spices also helps mitigate dosha imbalances.
- Combine a teaspoon each of Coriander, Cumin and Fennel seeds in a saucepan. Add 2 cups of water, cover and simmer on a low flame till quantity of water reduces to half. Strain and drink the tea. It can be consumed before or after meals as per preference.
Varsha rtu is thought to be particularly scared to Shiva and his consort Parvati. So, many people fast on Mondays (the day of Shiva) through the season. Goddess Parvati is also worshipped by many through this rtu. All of the three Teej celebrations in North India revolve around Shiva and Parvati. In Hariyali Teej, which falls on July 23, women gather together in celebration. This Teej celebrates the union of Shiva and Parvati. The colour Green – associated with fertility – is a special part of this Teej. So, women wear Green clothes and bangles. Green clothes and bangles are also gifted to married women by the in laws.
But perhaps the most beautiful of the forgotten ritual practices is the association of each month with a specific plant or flower. In the month of Shravana the Karavira flower (Nerium oleander) was the flower offered to deities and used in ritual practices.
Shravana mas closes with the Full Moon on August 3. In the Konkan region and the coastal parts of Maharashtra this Full Moon is celebrated as Nariyal Purnima. They invoke Varun, a Vedic deity of forgotten significance, and offer Coconuts to him as the god of the waters – especially the Sea. The fisher folk pray to him for protection for when they are out on Sea and seek his blessings for a bountiful catch for the year. The most beautiful ritual of this celebration is perhaps the planting of a tree as a form of gratitude to nature and for the nurturing bounty she provides.