Nilakshi Sharma

Jyeshtha mas arrives in a blaze of light, marking the onset of Grishma rtu – the season of scorching heat and the sweetness of Mango. In the month of Jyeshtha the intensity of the Sun keeps on increasing till it becomes almost unbearable. The defining characteristic of Jyeshtha is heat. As the light of the Sun dazzles the eyes and its heat parches the earth, a stillness comes over the land as we all seek the shelter and relief of shade. In the searing heat of Jyeshtha we all long for the coolness of water.

But even to this sere season and its two months there are pleasures. Summer is the time of the sweet perfection of a ripe Mango – the hotter the season, the sweeter the Mangoes. Summer is the season of white – of crisp cottons and delicate muslins; of fragrant white Mogras in the hair and the gleam of aged Silver. Summer is the season of long shaded afternoons and the relief of dusk. Summer is the season of the Koel’s piercing call.

Season & Food

The heat of Jyeshtha brings with it a lack of moisture – in the environment and in your skin and bodies. This month and its heat brings with it dehydration and a loss of vitality as the relentless Sun saps our bodies of energy. The intense external heat of the very Pitta dominant season impacts our digestion by weakening our Agni or digestive capacity. To maintain our health and balance we need to follow the correct rtucharya – the rituals and habits that allow our bodies to be in harmony with the needs of this season.

  • Hydration: Mentally and physically we need the cooling relief of hydration. In no other season does water taste as sweet as summers. But water alone will not replenish the minerals and salts that the body loses through sweat in this season. But nature and our traditional cuisines offer us a range of choices. Tender Green Coconut water and Nimbu Paani are two great beverages to help us remain hydrated. The vitamin C in Lemons aids with cellular hydration. Two other delicious and seasonally appropriate choices are Aam Panna and Jal Jeera. We share again our two tested and tried recipes along with their benefits below.

1. Aam Panna offers the health benefits of raw Mangoes, which “help in avoiding common liver ailments by stimulating bile production which in turn helps the liver to function better. Bile secretion allows cholesterol, bilirubin, toxins and drugs to be removed from the system.” Other nutrients include vitamins A, B1, B2 and C; with iron, calcium, folate, pectin, and choline also being present. But most of all it has a cooling and hydrating effect on our bodies.

Aam Panna: 1 green, unripe Mango + Roasted Cumin powder, Jaggery powder & Rock Salt as per taste.  

To make: Either pressure cook a whole raw Mango (with 1 cup of water per Mango) to soft consistency (3 to 4 whistles) or slow roast it over a flame until the skin is charred (similar to the roasting of an eggplant for Baingan Bharta). Now separate and set aside the Mango pulp and discard the seed and skin. Blend the Mango pulp and spices together to create your Aam Panna concentrate. Transfer to a glass container and keep in the refrigerator. To serve add 1 Tbsp (or more as per taste) of concentrate to a glass and top with chilled water. Add ice cubes if desired and some chopped Mint leaves for garnish.  

2. Jal Jeera is a simple drink that balances three tastes: sour, salty and sweet. Cumin supports our digestive system, which is much needed in the summer season when our digestive fires weaken. A gentle appetite stimulant, Cumin can also help with keeping our blood sugar levels stable. Each of the traditional ingredients offers its own taste and health benefits; Jaggery can help support liver function, Mint and raw Mango powder can help provide a vitamin boost and support the digestive system.

Jal Jeera Dry Mix: Take 1 Tbsp each of: Dry roasted Cumin seeds + Cumin seed powder (dry roasted & ground) + Aamchur powder (raw Mango powder) + Jaggery powder. Add Black Salt as per taste. Mix and keep in an airtight container.

To make: Blend 1 Tbsp of fresh Coriander and Mint leaves with a little water to create a paste. To this paste add dry mix (1/2 Tbsp or as per taste) and 2 glasses of water and stir. Keep aside for a few hours for the flavours to meld. Ideally keep in a terracotta bottle or vessel for a subtle earthy taste. Serve chilled.

  • Cooling Foods: This is the month to indulge your taste buds without overloading your digestive capacity. Have lightly cooked, easy to digest food – Cucumbers and Gourds are a great addition to your diet as is Yoghurt. There is an abundance of fruits at this time of the year – Melons, Watermelons, Mangoes, Lychees, Jamun, Mulberry… each of them will offer health benefits, delicious delight and help your digestive system. A great traditional recipe for summers is Onion Raita. Onions offer a high concentration of vitamins A, B & C, antioxidants and iron. The pungent Onion can help with digestive issues by stimulating the release of digestive juices. It can also promote good bacteria in the gut. Onion also offers potassium and sodium, which can help maintain the right electrolyte balance in the body. But most of all Onions contain volatile oils which can help in regulating body temperature, keeping us cool as the heat rises. For best results it should be consumed raw or very lightly cooked.

Onion Raita: 1 Onion, finely chopped + 1 Tbsp fresh Coriander, finely chopped + 1 cup of Yoghurt + 2 to 3 Green Chillies, deseeded and finely chopped + Salt, Pepper & roasted Cumin seeds as per taste.

Mix and enjoy as a delicious accompaniment to meals. 

Summer Scents

The season of relentless heat is also the time of deep olfactory delights. Sandalwood, Vetiver and Jasmine are for many of us the traditional markers of an Indian summer. Incorporating these scents in our lives during this season offers both delight and a cooling reprieve to our mind and body.

Mogra: The sensuous fragrance of Mogras is one that enchants the senses and delights the mind. The fragrance of these tiny flowers has a deeply calming impact on our nervous system and thus helps us unwind. Traditionally summer evenings were redolent with the scent of Mogras – women adorned their hair with strings of Mogras as they stepped out on summer evenings when the Sun’s ferocity lessened. You can even wear Mogra garlands around your neck to enjoy the beauty of this fragrance.

Vetiver: For those above a certain age, Summer evokes memories of shaded afternoons perfumed with the loamy aroma of Khus or Vetiver wafting from water misted chiks or from the panels of the traditional water coolers. Today, in the era of air conditioning this is fast becoming a forgotten scent of summer. But Vetiver or Khus is the ideal companion in summers. Steep some dried Vetiver roots in drinking water in a terracotta container overnight and then drink it the next day. The water carries the subtly cooling taste of Vetiver and an earthy tang. It offers cooling relief to the body and the scent refreshes our mind and calms our nervous system.

Sandalwood: The scent of the subcontinent, Sandalwood is sacred. And its impact on the body and mind is one that offers healing and calming. A complex, nuanced fragrance, Sandalwood is deeply cooling and yet has a warming undertone. There are many ways to use it in the summer season. A traditional Chandan tilak on the forehead benefits our nervous system by offering it relaxation and a sense of calm. A face mask with pure Sandalwood powder is a traditional beauty ritual for calming the skin and a radiant complexion as it calms and heals the skin. Just the fragrance of pure Sandalwood incense offers intense delight and is calming to our senses.

Selfcare Summer Rituals

We share again some of our most loved rituals of selfcare for the season of heat.

  • Silver, the metal once attributed to the Moon, has traditionally been associated with cooling properties. Hence, drinking water that has been kept in a Silver vessel or glass overnight is a traditional morning ritual thought to be beneficial during the summer season. This is especially recommended for Pitta prone people.
  • Refrigerate pure Rose Water (ideally in a glass bottle). Spritz your face with it for awakening and refreshing your skin instantly throughout the day.
  • A tilak of pure Chandan (Sandalwood) paste on the forehead can help keep our nervous system calm while its fragrance has a grounding and cooling effect on our senses.
  • Wearing fresh Jasmine flowers in our hair or around the neck in a garland can be a deeply refreshing and uplifting summer ritual of delight.
  • Do please keep a large terracotta bowl filled with 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.

Grishma Rtu and its months – Jyeshtha and Ashadha, are a time of extreme heat but also of simple pleasures and sweet delights. May your summer be filled with cooling delights and sweetness.

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