Nilakshi Sharma

Nature is never still and with each day there is a subtle change. And with each month the shift in the seasonal energy is palpable. The arrival of Ashadha is marked by heat but also the knowledge that as this month wanes, it takes us closer to the next rtu.

Ashadha is the month of unparalleled heat in the northern plains of India. The scorching intensity of the Sun, the stillness that pervades the atmosphere on long afternoons, the parched feel of the air, the sweeping hot winds (called Loo in Hindi and is “a strong, dusty, gusty, hot and dry summer wind from the west which blows over the Indo-Gangetic Plain region of North India”) that were once feared, all turn our thoughts to water and make us long for the cooling relief of the rainy season.  

In terms of impact on the body, Ashadha is the time of a pitta dominant environment. Thus, our bodies too seek cool relief both externally and internally. Long still shaded afternoons spent, the delicate earthy taste of water cooled in a natural matka (clay pot), the scent of khus wafting through the air, the delight of biting into the ripe sweetness of a Mango, hearing the piercing call of the Koel, welcoming the cooling relief of dusk with the fragrance of fresh Mogra, clothes made from the softest of muslins, crisp white cottons… these were once the rituals of this month, the hottest of the year.

Today, many of these are outworn. Air conditioning with its cool dry air has replaced the traditional cooler, which offered us air rich with moisture and scented with khus due to the Vetiver grass blinds that were an integral part of the cooler. But the need for remembering these rituals is deeper than mere nostalgia. Many of these rituals helped our bodies synchronise better with the natural world and its rhythms. So now we need to consciously create the rituals that will allow our bodies and minds to connect with natural rhythms, which do have a significant impact on us.

Cooling Rituals of Ashadha

This is the season of brilliant heat that saps moisture and strength from our bodies. Keeping the body and our nervous systems cool is important.

  • Sherbet & Vetiver water: Our traditional sherbets offer delicious coolness and hydration to body. Rose, Bael, Jasmine, Plum & Tamarind and even the milk based Thandai are amongst the traditional varieties of Sherbets that are consumed during the summer season. But the vitamin C rich Nimbupaani or Lemonade and Shikanji are perhaps amongst the healthiest of choices when it comes to replenishing and hydrating our bodies during the season of heat. Another traditional choice is drinking Vetiver water. Soak a few dried Vetiver roots in water in glass jug or better still in a clay matka or vessel. After a few hours of soaking the water is ready to be drunk, offering a subtle yet delicious earthy taste along with its antioxidant and alkalising properties.

Shikanji: 1 glass Water + ½ Lemon juice + 2 to 4 Mint leaves – roughly chopped + ½ Tbsp Jaggery + pinch of Black Salt. Mix well, chill and enjoy.

  • Silver & Water: A simple morning ritual that is also good for this month is placing a silver glass filled with water by your bedside at night. Drink that water when you awaken. Silver has subtle cooling properties that are the need of this season.
  • Eye Relief: This is the season of pitta dominance as per Ayurveda and eyes are one of the seats of pitta in our body. The heat coupled with our inevitable screen can combine to impact our eyes. It is good to offer our eyes some cool relief with a simple cold compress. Soak a clean muslin cloth in ice cold water and place over your eyes for a few minutes. Or you can soak cotton pads in chilled organic Rose water and place the pads over your eyelids for a few relaxing minutes.
  • Water: We are not alone in feeling the heat so a beautiful ritual of generosity during summers is to place a clay bowl of water on your terrace or balcony. This will attract an extraordinary number of birds of different types throughout the day. Refill the bowl as needed because it will be getting used a lot. 

Fragrant Rituals of Ashadha

Fragrance offers us the most delightful relief in the time of dry heat.

  • Gulab Jal: Rose water, with its gentle fragrance and its skin benefits also offers us fragrant relaxation. The scent of Roses delights the senses and offers us emotional support. Keep a bottle of Rose water in the refrigerator and spritz on the face throughout the day.
  • Chandan Tilak: The tradition of wearing a Chandan (Sandalwood) tilak may be old fashioned but is one that is most beneficial. The scent of Sandalwood refreshes and delights the senses and its placement on our forehead offers relief to our nervous system.
  • Jasmine Garland: The wearing of a Mogra gajra in your hair or a Jasmine garland around the neck is ritual that allows the heady, sensuous scent of Jasmine to enchant your senses and calm your mind.

Summer offers extreme heat which only serves to heighten the delight and beauty of those fleeting moments of coolness and delight, which cannot be felt as keenly in any other season. May you enjoy the delicate delights of the season in this month, “with a fragrant breeze from fans in Sandal-scented water moistened, a garland looped around the bosom, and the soft music of a lute…”.