Isheeta Sharma

Clouds also bear the bow of Indra,
colourful and stringed with lightning,
but their terrible twangs of thunder,
and arrows sharp of pouring rain
forcefully assail the mind
and torment all travellers.

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

With the arrival of Varsha rtu, the land is invigorated.

Varsha rtu is also the season of desire and fulfilment. And this is reflected in the poetry, paintings, music, dance forms, etc., of the subcontinent. Such is the impact of Varsha rtu on the lived experience of the land that the word ‘Varsh’, meaning year, comes from the word ‘Varsha’, meaning rain.

The auspicious Hariyali Amavasya arrives on July 31, marking the end of Krishna Paksh – the waning phase of the moon. The next day, on August 1, Shukla Paksh – the waxing lunar phase – begins with Pratipada. In the Tamil calendar, this Amavasya is also known as Aadi Amavasya, and the month of Aadi (July-August) is considered auspicious. On this day, ancestors are honoured and their blessings sought for good health and prosperity.

The day after Shravana Amavasya is celebrated as Hariyali Teej, which falls on August 3 this year. Teej is a festival that welcomes Varsha rtu and is celebrated by women with much fanfare in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Traditionally, Teej was celebrated by women joyously swinging on jhoolas hung over trees, singing folk songs, wearing bright colours and glass bangles, applying mehendi (henna) on their palms and preparing and eating Ghewar, a dessert. Hariyali Teej is the first of the three Teej festivals – Hariyali, Kajari and Hartalika – celebrated during the two lunar months of Varsha rtu. Hariyali Teej also celebrates the union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is also commonly known as Choti Teej.

Nag Panchami is on August 5 this year. The 12 serpent gods are appeased by offerings of milk. Ananta, Vasuki, Shesha, Padma, Kambala, Karkotaka, Ashvatara, Dhritarashtra, Shankhapala, Kaliya, Takshaka and Pingala are the 12 serpent gods invoked on Nag Panchami.

Tulsidas Jayanti also falls in the month of Shravana, on August 7 this year. Tulsidas, the renowned saint and poet, is best known for Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the Sanskrit Ramayana in Awadhi. He is also thought to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa.

Ekadashi, the 11th day of the lunar cycle in both the waxing and waning phases, falls on Sunday, August 11. Traditionally fasting on Ekadashi was encouraged. Today, science has also begun to acknowledge the benefits of fasting on Ekadashi.

Traditionally, Parana is the term used to mean ‘breaking the fast’. An Ekadashi Parana is done after sunrise the day after the Ekadashi fast. It is necessary to do Parana within Dwadashi Tithi unless Dwadashi is over before sunrise. Not doing Parana within Dwadashi is considered to be an offence. So, the Ekadashi fast of August 11 ideally should be broken after sunrise on August 12, Monday.

According to the Islamic calendar Eid al-Adha will be celebrated on August 12 this year.

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