Ritu Samharam: A Garland of Seasons
BY: SUN STAFF
Delhi/Mughal, c. 1800
Oct 06, 2013 CANADA (SUN) A medley of seasonal glorifications by Sri Kavi Kalidas, translated by D.H. Rao.
Vedic culture has always emphasized the harmonious relation between man and the forces of nature. The importance of each season has been beautifully narrated by the great poet Kalidasa in Ritu Samharam, an epic (albeit short) poem written by him on the turning of the seasons. This medley or "Garland of Seasons" is divided into six main chapters, each vividly describing the seasons of India: Summer, Spring, Monsoons, Autumn, Frost and Winters.
Each of these seasons is described as a pair of lovers who experience changes in their relationship that mirror the changing seasons. Ritu Samharam begins with a description of summer, which is the most overriding of all seasons. Dry weather and the extreme heat conditions cause the lands to become extremely parched and all the living entities yearn for the rains to come. Even in this season of extreme heat, however, one can enjoy ripe mangoes and cool moonlit nights. The season culminates with the much-awaited monsoons as the whole of Mother Bharat gets drenched by the fresh monsoon rains. Threatening black clouds and rumbling thunder bring Summer to a close in a burst of monsoon rain.
Sri Sri Radha-Krsna's lila pastimes are beautifully narrated in many Vaisnava literatures, which describe their seasonal pastimes in terms of the transcendental nature of the seasons themselves. The correspondence of seasons in the Vedic calendar to those in the Gregorian calendar are as follows:
Summer (Grisma) - June to August
Monsoons (Varsa) - August to October
Autumn (Sharat) - October to December
Pre-winter Frosts (Hemantha) - December to February
Winter (Shishira) - February to April
Spring (Vasanta) - April to June
Following the Monsoons is the season of autumn, when festivals and celebrations bring the people together to enjoy pleasant weather with hot afternoons, almost like a second summer. Changes in the wind bring the chill of pre-winter frosts, as cold settles in on the land from night until morning. Next comes the heaviest of winter weather, with temperatures dropping and the layers of clothing increased depending on one's location on the subcontinent.
Finally the weather begins to warm, and again comes Vasanta, the spring season. Agriculture and harvest festivals take place in many parts of India during the Spring, when blooming flowers are all around.
Today we begin with the first of six chapters of Ritu Samharam by Sri Kavi Kalidas, translated by D.H. Rao heralding the pinnacle of the solar year, the season of Summer.
Kakubha Ragini (Autumn)
Hyderabad, c. 1760
Ritu Samharam: Garland of Seasons
"Oh, dear, this utterly sweltering season of the highly rampant sun is drawing nigh, and it will always be good enough to go on taking daytime baths, as the lakes and rivers will still be with plenteous waters, and at the end of the day, nightfall will be pleasant with fascinating moon, and in such nights Love-god can somehow be almost mollified...[who tortured us in the previous vernal season... but now without His sweltering us, we can happily enjoy the nights devouring cool soft drinks and dancing and merrymaking in outfields...]
"Oh, beloved one, somewhere the moon shoved the blackish columns of night aside, somewhere else the palace-chambers with water [showering, sprinkling and splashing] machines are highly exciting, and else where the matrices of gems, [like coolant pearls and moon-stone, etc.,] are there, and even the pure sandalwood is liquefied [besides other coolant scents,] thus this season gets an adoration from all the people...
Vividly: These post-spring and pre-summer season nights will be pleasant for strolls for they will have that immaculate moon, who shoves off the blackish streaks of night with his softish moonshine, thus abated is the bodily heat... in daytime there are palace-chambers fitted with highly exciting machines that shower, sprinkle or splash waters as you wish, thus abated is the bodily heat... and in nights, there are slabs of cool moon-stone candra kaanta maNi shilaa paryanka to repose, when our bodies are bedaubed with pure sandalwood paste which is liquefied with coolant scents like yellow camphor, kastuuri etc., and wearing coolish pearly ornaments, and when all of these coolants are there, how can the sun scald us... hence, this particular period of the season is adorable for one and all...
"The beloved ones will enjoy the summer's clear late nights while they are atop the rooftops of buildings that are delightful and fragranced well, while they savour the passion intensifiers like strong drinks and while the ladylove's face suspires the bouquets of those drinks together with melodious instrumental and vocal music...
Vividly: The environs required for enjoying a happy intimacy are the delightful buildings decorated with delightful pictures, painting, and murals, and fragranced well with choicest scents and hard drinks, whose rooftops are with fatigue-removing coolant breeze, coupled with the background music of instruments and vocalists, and in such an environ of clear summer late nights the couples can have untiring intimacy savouring those drinks, rocking the face of ladylove to the tune of her suspiration with susurrus and whispers, forgetting the summer sun and his scorching shine.
"The women are ameliorating the heat of their lovers with their chicly silken coolant fineries gliding onto their rotund fundaments, for they are knotted loosely, and on those silks glissading are their golden cinctures with their dangling tassels that are unfastened on and off, and with their buxom bosoms that are bedaubed with sandal-paste and semi-covered with pearly strings and golden lavalieres, and with their locks of hair that are sliding onto their faces, which locks are fragrant with bath-time emulsions, which are just applied before their oil bath...
"Brightly coloured with the reddish foot-paint that is akin to the colour of lac's reddish resin, adorned with anklets that are festooned with jingling bells, whose tintinnabulations on their stepping after stepping mimic the clucks of swans, with such feet those women with bumpy behinds are rendering the hearts of people impassioned, in these days of pre-summer...
"These days the bosoms of womenfolk are bedaubed with scents and sandal-paste, and they are given out to snowily and whitely pearly pendants that are sported on those bosoms, and even their hiplines are with the dangling golden griddle-strings, with such a lovely ostentation whose heart is it, that does not fill with raptures...
"The seams of limbs of ladies of age are conquered by the often emerging sweat, thus those peaky bosomed lustful ladies are presently banding their bosoms with softish fineries, casting aside their roughish apparels ...
"The rustles of air comprising the aroma of watered sandal-paste, blown off by the fans with peacocks' plumage, and the rustle of strings of pearls when the roundish bosoms of loves are hugged, together with the subtle melody of string instruments, and subtly sung intonations of singers, now appear to awaken Love-god, Manmatha, who is as though asleep after his manoeuvres in the last spring season...
"On leisurely seeing the faces of the maids that are comfortably sleeping well on the tops of whitish edifices, the moon of these nights is highly ecstasized, for he is unpossessed with any such flawless face, as his own face is flawed with rabbit-like, deer-like foibles, and when the night dwindles, he doubtlessly goes into state of pallidity, as though ashamed to show his face to the flawless sun...
"The intolerable westerly wind of the summer is up-heaving the clouds of dust, even the earth is ablaze, set by the blazing sun, and the itinerants whose hearts are already put to blaze by the blazing called the detachment from their ladyloves, and now it has become impossible for them even to look at the blazing earth, to tread further...
"The reigning sun's torridity rendered the animals parched, and with unquenchable thirst highly shriveled are their tongues, throats and lips, and on seeing kneaded blackish mascara like mirages on the sky in another forest, that are cloudlike in their shine, those animals are rushing there, presuming them to be water...
"The women of charm are with smiles and slanted looks, and now they are on par with the twilights that are ornamented with a beautiful ornament called moon, and they are now decorating themselves confusedly and they are inciting the incorporeal Love-god in the hearts of itinerants...
"Extremely seared by the rays of sun, and even by the already seared dust on the pathway, with its slithery motion and downcast hood, repeatedly suspiring when being scalded thus awfully, that serpent is sinking down under the pave of peacock's plumage, distrait of the fact that a peacock is an enemy of serpents, thus distrait is the relative danger from a born enemy or from the searing summer...
"Thwarted are the valorousness and venturesomeness of that king of animals, the lion, for the thirst is abnormal, thereby gaping his mouth much lengthily, and suspiring repeatedly with a lengthened and dangling tongue, and repeatedly whisking his frontal hair of the mane, that lion is not pawing the elephants, though they are at his nearby, and though they both of them are born rivals, thus the scalding summer cooled off their mutual contempt...
"Verily dried up are their throats, but somehow some cool water remaining in their trunks is brought to those dry throats with the prehensility of their trunks, but too scanty is that water for those mega-vores, further muchly scorched by sun's scorching rays and overpowered by heightened thirst, even those water-seeking tuskers are unafraid of those nearby lions, as negligible is the physical danger than the natural danger...
"The scorching sunrays that are akin to the tongues of blazed up Ritual-fire, by them the bodies as well as the souls of peacocks are wilted, thus they wedge their faces in the pack of their plumage for certain coolness, and though they mark the serpents that are milling about under the very same plumage through the plumes and feathers, they peck not those serpents to death, as their priority is to cool off their faces and heads...
"The slime in the ponds is dried up but in some areas Bhadramusta grass is available, and while the herd of wild boars is digging up that grass with their long and broad snouts for a piggish slumber, the sunrays have highly sweltered their backs, but that herd dug the dry swamp more and more, as though to enter the interior of earth, to get a mucky, miry, muddy slumber...
"With the unbearable prickly heat of sunrays highly seared is a frog, and jumping up from a pond with mud and muddy water, it jumped to sit under the shade of a parasol, called the hood of a snake... neither thirstier frog is aware that it is the shade of a snake's hood, nor the thirstiest snake is aware that it is shading a thirsty frog...
"When each other elephant is highly huddling, belaboured is that lake by their elephantine limbs, and completely uprooted are the tall slender stems of lilies and lotuses of that lake, without any remnants of standing lotuses or lilies, thus trampled and agglutinated with mud, they are heaped up under the feet of elephants, and ill-fated are the fishes when trodden by elephants underfoot, and the Saarasa waterfowls are fleeing with fear of this rumpus...
"Akin to sunshine upcast is irradiance of the jewel on its hood, and wigwagging is its twinned tongue licking the air, and it is seared by its own venom, by fiery soil, and by the searing sun as well, and thus tottering thirstily, that hooded serpent is not draining the dregs of frogs, to the dregs...
"Frothily gaping and reeling are the two-pieced snouts, and jerkily extruding are the lightly reddened tongues, and staggering thirstily looking for water with upraised snouts, those herds of she-buffalos are extruding from the caves of mountain with such snouts and gaits, wherein they took shade from the scorching sun so far, but thirst drove them out of those cool caves...
"Extremely withered as though by wildfire and utterly shriveled are the tender stalks of crops, and windswept by harsh winds they are uprooted and completely wilted and reduced to straw, and all over scorched are they in an overall manner as the water is evaporated, and if seen from highlands till the end of forest, this summer is foisting upon the onlookers a kind of disconcert, as the straw in the wind about the monsoon is unnoticeable...
"Perching on the trees with wilted leaves, flocks of birds are hyperventilating, the overtired troops of monkeys are going nigh of viney caves on the mountain, the water-craving herds of buffalos are rambling hither and thither, the straight flying Sharabha birds are nose-diving into wells and easily lifting up the water...
"The wildfire, that is simulative of a just blossomed bright and fierily ochreish safflower, is exceedingly speedy and further whipped up by the speed of the wind it is eagerly embracing the treetops, that are on the banks of lakes and rivers, with tongues of fire, onto which trees the apices of climber plants are eager to embrace, thus that wildfire has burnt down every quarter of land, in a trice...
"That wildfire, now intensified by the gusts, is blazing the valleys of mountains, and thus skittering across it entered the stands of bamboos, only to shatter them in a second with clattering rattles, then escalated by gusts it is overspreading the straw fields, then from their within, on smacking the perimeter of straw-field, it is broiling the herds of deer, tumultuously ...
"That wildfire taking a rebirth in the copses of silk-cotton trees is extremely blazing, and from within the cavities of the trees it is erupting with the glint of golden yellow, and thus uprooting the wizened leaves on wizened branches along with their trees, and then hurled by gusts it is whirling everywhere in that woodland unto its edging...
"When fire scorched their bodies, their dichotomic thinking of mutual hostilities had to be discarded, and those elephants, buffalos and lions come together as friends, and when blighted by the fire, they are quickly exiting their habitual confines to enter the areas of rivers that have broad sandbanks...
"Oh, dear melodious singer, what if the summer is scorching... fragrant lotuses are overlaid on coolant waters, agreeably refreshing is the fragrance of Trumpet flowers, comfortable is the fresh water in bathing pools, pleasurable are those moonbeams, and with these pearly pendants and these jasmine garlands, let our simmering summer nights enjoyably slip by, while we abide on the tops of buildings right under the moonscape, savouring potations and amidst music and song...
Submit an Article
Copyright 2005, 2013, HareKrsna.com. All rights reserved.