Ritusamharam by Kalidasa
SEASONS OF INDIA
by Kala Ramesh
The relationship between Man and Nature
Beginning from literature, ayur veda [medical sciences] to music and dance - India has believed and advocated the harmony between man and nature. The word, Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root- yuj- meaning to bind, join. It also means union. Yoga asanas are poses emulating the tree, the birds and the animals and through the practice of these postures, one discovers the art of living a healthy and disease-free life.
"Nature has a life of its own in Indian thought- it enshrines centers of power, radiating holiness, plenitude and beauty" says Chandra Rajan - in KALIDASA- the loom of life.
Kalidasa is the greatest poet and playwright in classical Sanskrit literature and one of the greatest in world literature.
Taking Kalidasa's RITUSAMHARAM [the gathering of the seasons] a poem in six cantos, in which the writer talks of the 6 Seasons, namely, Summer- Rains- Autumn- Frost- Winter - and Spring, I have co-related it to Haiku and Indian seasons.
For more about the Seasons in Indian Haiku, click here.
Translations of the verses are taken from Penguin classics -
KALIDASA -The Loom of Time
A Selection of His Plays and Poems
By Chandra Rajan
Summer – called Grishma –in the months of Jaishthya and Aashadh
Approximately- May and June
India is a tropical country - steamy and humid - sultry and unbearably in the Summer months.
The Summer months gradually begins from March end – gets severe during the month of May tapering off by end June- when the whole of India talks of nothing but the impending monsoons!
The month of May does bring the summer showers but it lasts for a few days and the earth seems drier and angrier than ever before.
The best part of Summer is that it is the season of Mangoes – the king of fruits. Endless varieties of mangoes will be available. Kids have their two month summer vacation and . . . . . coaching camps and personality development classes will be in full swing . . .
Canto I - Summer
The sun blazing fiercely,
the moon longed for eagerly,
deep waters inviting
to plunge in continually,
days drawing to a close in quiet beauty,
the tide of desire running low:
scorching summer is now here, my love.
Gazing all night longingly
on the faces of lovely women sleeping happy
on terraces of sparkling white mansions,
the moon pales at dawn struck by guilty shame.
A cobra overcome by thirst darts his forked tongue out
to lick the breeze; the brilliance of his crest-jewel
flashes struck by brilliant sunbeams; burning
from Summer’s heat and his own fiery poison
he does not attack the assemblage of frogs
Rains – called Varsha in the months of Shravan and Bhadrapad
- approximately corresponds to July and August
The monsoon brings with it the smiles of India.
India being purely an agricultural country, the timely rains are extremely important to farmers.
On the Konkan coast the rains begin by June end and goes on till September beginning.
Good heavy rains are witnessed in these areas.
Down south – Chennai and neighbouring places get their rainfall in Oct / Nov. - mostly cyclonic rains, causing great devastation at times.
Sadly when one part of India suffers deficient rains, a few states might be suffering the ravages of floods.
Canto II - Rains
With streaming clouds trumpeting like haughty tuskers,
with lightning-banners and drum beats of thunder claps,
in towering majesty, the season of rains
welcome to lovers, now comes like a king, my love.
A bevy of peacocks that sounds ever-delightful,
eagerly watching out for this festive moment,
caught up in a flurry of billing and fondling,
now begin to dance, gorgeous plumage spread out wide.
Dotting the woodlands are charming glades by streams,
haunted by timorous gazelles easily alarmed
- tremulous eyes like blue water lilies, enchanting -
and the heart is twisted with sudden longing.
Autumn called Sharad, in the months of Aashwin and kartik,
approximately in September and October
Autumn in India – is not of the leaf dropping kind!
Leaving summer far behind - having had good rains – Autumn brings joy and festivals into focus.
It is the days of Navrathri [9 night’s festival] and Diwali [festival of lamps]
Holidays and family gatherings . . .
India also experiences the second summer in end October when expensive clothes are aired after the long monsoon . . . food stuffs are dried
Canto III - Autumn
Robed in pale silk plumes of kasa blooms,
full-blown lotuses her beautiful face,
the calls of rapturous wild geese
the music of her anklet bells,
ripening grain, lightly bending, her lissome form:
Autumn has now arrived, enchanting as a bride.
Splendidly jeweled by numberless star-clusters,
night wraps herself in moonlight’s shining robe
when the moon her face struggles free of obscuring clouds.
day by day, she grows like a young girl
stepping gracefully into proud womanhood.
Full-blown lotuses, pale-pink, her face,
deep-blue lilies unfolding, her dark eyes,
fresh white Kasa blooms, her bright robe,
glowing with the brilliance of moon-lotuses,
may this Autumn, like your beloved
lost in love for you,
fully grant your heart’s highest happiness.
The Season of Frost – called Hemant – occurs in the months of Margshishya-Pousha
-approximately in November and December.
The nip in the morning air . . . the biting cold in the nights . . . time for Kashmir shawls and woollen sweaters to make an appearance . . . an increased demand for skin creams and messages!
Fresh fruits like the famous- Kulu apples from Kashmir, vegetables like peas and many other varieties of carrots etc – would be seen in abundance in the markets.
The season of frost is the time in India – when art flourishes. From North to South- East to West – concerts and sammelans abound in India during this time
Chennai is renowned for their December music season. When hundreds of associations called sabha, hold concerts throughout the day running through the whole month and more.
Canto IV - Season of Frost
The sudden burst of the barley’s young shoots
shows delighted; Lodhras are in full bloom;
paddy golden ripe; lotuses all withered:
thick-falling dews usher this season of frost.
Fields richly covered with ripening rice
where charming does roam in herds
are sonorous with the calls of damsel cranes.
Ah! What restlessness they arouse!
Languishing blanched in the chilling frost
ever-shivering in the blowing wind,
like a sprightly girl parted from her love,
the Priyangu now grows pale, my love.
Winter called Shishir - in the months of Magh and Phalgun
English calendar months are Jan and Feb [approximately]
Winter in India is never as severe as in the western countries. Snow is unknown to us unless we go to the Himalayas or to Jammu!
But even then, our winter can be freezing cold with temperature dropping extremely low and the very poor and the homeless have a difficult time coping with winter.
January 14th is Sankranti or Pongal - the harvest festival celebrated all over India.
Fresh sugar-cane would be transported in vans and carts.
In Chennai – the December music season spills into the Pongal dance festival.
All over India – music mahotsavs are held.
With our hearts brimming in aesthetic emotion - we await the arrival of spring . . .
Canto V – Winter
Stacks of ripe rice and sugar-cane cover the earth;
The air rings with the hidden calls of curlews;
Love grows exuberant: Dear to lovely women,
Winter is now here; hear now, my love.
Neither liquid sandal chilled by moonlight,
nor breezes cool with falling dew, nor terraces
of mansions bright with the autumnal moon,
delight the mind at this time of the year.
Cold, cold, with heavy dews falling thick,
and colder yet with the moonbeams’ icy glitter,
lit with ethereal beauty by wan stars,
these nights give no comfort or joy to people.
Spring known as Vasant - in the months of Chaitra and Vaishakh
English calendar months of March and April [approximately]
Spring strides in stealthily . . . called basant or vasant, spring has inspired many Indian artists in all art forms.
We even have a Raga named after Spring in Hindustani classical music.
Raga Basant- is a beautiful lilting raga, whether it is sung or played on an instrument.
For children – spring is exam time! India has always given emphasis on good education and so every child almost is under pressure to perform well . . . the competition being very stiff – things are stressful for school goers.
Canto VI – Spring
Sprays of full blown mango blossoms – his sharp arrows,
honey-bees in rows- the humming bowstring;
warrior-Spring set to break the hearts
of Love’s devotees, is now approaching, my love.
Glancing at the amarnath’s blossoming sprays
glowing in exquisite loveliness, just-revealed,
-loveliness that rightly belongs to the beloved’s face-
how can a sensitive heart not flutter in panic
stung by proud Love’s flying arrows, my love?
Lost already to beautiful girls,
are not young men’s hearts pounded to bits
by Kimsuke blossoms bright as parrots’ beaks?
Are they not already burnt
by the golden champa’s brilliant blooms?
And now, the cuckoo with its honey-sweet notes
sounds their death knell.
By Dr. Madhuri Bhosale
She has a deep and abiding interest in classical literature and folk art. Her series of paintings inspired by Kalidasa's Raghuvansham, Ritusamharam, Kumarsambhavam and projects a sense of originality.
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