The Sharad Ritu is in every sense the Ritu of celebration. Not only the numerous festivals which fall in this season but also the nature imparts mood of celebration.
Traditionally, Indian seasons– Ritus – are six, each of about two month’s duration. Each of the Ritus has a beauty and splendor of its own.
Ritu is a division of the year , reflecting the change of seasons. The concept of Ritu occurs in Rig Veda, where only three Ritus are mentioned: Varsha , Grishma and Sharad. Later, the year was further divided and two more Ritus were added.
A hymn in Taittareya Brahmana has a beautiful graphic presentation of the Ritus in the image of a bird: Vasantha is the head of the bird called Samvathsara, Grishma its left wing, Sharad its right wing, Varsha its tail, and , Hemanta its body. (T.Brahmana: 184.108.40.206)
The Puranas (say, Brahmanda Purana) mention six seasons.
Vasantha, Grishma, Varsha, Sharad , Hemanta and, Shishira.
Why Sharad Ritu is the most celebrated one?
Sharad Ritu, is a season of festivals marked by benevolence, grace and beauty. As per the lunar calendar, Sharad Ritu follows the Varsha and precedes Hemantha. It comprises months of Ashwija and Karthika, which is September to November months in the Gregorian calendar.
The nature is at its benevolent best in Sharad Ritu. The weather is mild, pleasant and refreshing. Sharad is a season of moderation, comfort and peace.
SrimadBhagavatam describes the beauty of Sharad Ritu in Venu Gitam:
It says; the water is pure, fresh and playing host to the beautiful lotuses waiting to bloom and spread their fragrance everywhere –padmakarasugandhina.
Flower buds, now bloom joyfully–kusumitavanaraji – adorning the trees with colour. The aroma of these flowers attract the buzzing honey bees (sushmibhrunga).
Soundarya–lahari, describes Parashakti as SaratchandraVadana, one with a face as radiant and blissful as the moon in Sharad Ritu. And, Goddess Sarasvathi is described as Sharad-indu Sundara Vadane – having a blissful radiant face as beautiful as the moon of the Sharad Ritu.
It is said that even Lord Krishna enjoyed Rasleela with Gopika during this season and they all relished food which was ‘Gritha-supa-samanvayam’.
Why such food?
In the body the Pitta Dosha is in aggrevated state during this Ritu and naturally, Pitta dosha keeps the activity of digestive fire increased. Hence to balance out the Pitta and as a method to avoid being hungry often, in this Ritu food which are heavy to digest, which consists of Ghee, milk, grains, sugar are advised to be taken.
That’s why it is a custom in the festival season to prepare food like Payasa- cooked in milk with sugar and ghee, heavy fried delicacies, sweets etc…
The season by its chill air will impart dryness in the body to counter this in all of the festivals the AbhyangaTailaSnana -Oil bath is suggested.
All the major festivals from Krishna Janmashtami, through Gauri, Ganesh, and Nava-Ratri, on to Deepavali are celebrated during Dakshinayana in Sharad Ritu. In particular, this Ritu dedicated to the Devi.
Karthika is the month of lights. Numerous Little lamps are lit in homes and temples to dispel darkness and ignorance.
Our seers visualized a life worth- living as spans of Sharad Ritu, not merely, because it is the most enjoyable season but also because it suggests an interpretation and a sense of balance that life should have. That perhaps was the reason our ancients measured meaningful life spans as representations of Sharad Ritu. A young person on threshold of life greets his beloved at the time of wedding “Oh! The auspicious one, the cause of my life, may we live to see a hundred Sharad seasons (subhage, tvamjeeva sharadahshhatam)”.
The Vedic aspirations of living a long, rich and purposeful life are expressed as enjoyment of life as in Sharad Ritu.
Source: Excerpts from works of Sreenivas Rao…
Dr. Sindhu Prashanth