Nilakshi Sharma

Its red asoka is compared to the sweetness of her lips; its row of blooming jasmine, to her pure and sparkling teeth; its hum of bees to gentle sounds; its lotus blossoms to her face.

With its soft breezes scented by the aroma of the blooming mango, may this advent of spring and flowers, preceptor of erotic arts so dear to the god of love, bless you with all happiness.

Ritusamharam: A Gathering of Seasons
Kalidasa (Tans. A.N.D. Haksar)

Vaishakha mas is a time of beauty. Alongside the fragrant flowers swaying in the delightful breezes of Spring, this is also the time of flower bedecked trees. The orange flame of Palash begins to compete with the bright orange flame of the Gulmohar blooms. The bright, lilting lilac of Jacaranda complements the reddish – yellow blooms of the Ashoka tree.

To this season of Spring and both its months – Chaitra and Vaishakha, there is a sense of freshness and bright new beginnings that permeates the air.

Traditionally the start of the month of Vaishakha mas was considered to be the time when Basant and its fragrant beauty reaches its peak. In Kathāsaritsāgara, an ancient Sanskrit text, the name Vaishakha is given to a fictional city which is full of splendour and beautiful women. The author is clearly inspired by the season and its fragrant and colourful offerings. Blooming Champaka flowers radiate golden warmth while the delicate Atimukta creepers wind themselves around tree barks in full blossom. In Aśvaghośa’s Saundarananda, it is in this season of beauty that a young Nanda sets out to follow the path laid by Buddha, leaving behind his wife. However, on the way he is tormented by his wife’s memory every time he looks at the beauty of Basant. Once, looking at the Atimukta creeper wrapped around a Mango tree, he gets lost in thought and wonders, “When will Sundarī embrace me like that?” Thus, the beauty of Basant both pleases and torments the lovers.

Spring & Self Care Rituals

This is a season of immense delight and freshness but also a time of capricious playfulness when it comes to weather. Thus it can change from gentle breezes to windy days, from warming sun to chilly coolness. And because this is the season when we have to deal with the Kapha we accumulated during the winter season, it is important to be mindful of our body and nurture it with the right foods and practices that Ayurveda recommends.

Garshana: Dry brushing is a technique that encourages lymphatic drainage in the body, while also improving circulation and exfoliating the skin. As a weekly or bi-weekly ritual it can help brighten a sluggish lymphatic system and encourage detoxification.

To dry brush, use a body brush with natural bristles or a natural loofah. Always perform Garshana on a dry body. Starting with your feet, gently brush upwards in short strokes. Repeat with arms, back and torso. Always remember to brush in the direction of your heart, never away from it. Be gentle. The lymph system is near the surface of the skin so stimulating it does not require too much pressure. After brushing bathe as normal and then moisturise your skin with a light but nourishing body oil.

Seasonal Flavours: Ayurveda recommends favouring Bitter, Astringent and Pungent tasting foods at this time. Raw Mango or kairi, which begins to become available at this time offers an excellent boost of vitamin C and vitamin B. These help with heart health, prevent dehydration by helping with sodium and other mineral imbalances in the body, stimulate the digestive system and help with constipation and liver health. One traditional and delicious way of including raw mangoes in the diet is a chutney. Here is my favourite Kairi Chutney recipe:

  • 1 raw Mango: peel and roughly chop the flesh
  • Coriander: Wash and roughly chop a handful of fresh Coriander leaves along with stems
  • Mint: Wash and roughly chop some Mint leaves
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Green chillies, Rock Salt & Roasted Cumin seed powder as per taste & a generous pinch of Hing (Asafoetida).
  • Blend everything together adding a little water if required. Refrigerate and enjoy.

Nurturing Agni: In the Ayurvedic understanding of the body and health, the state of our digestive fire or Jathar Agni plays a vital role. Strong agni ensures that not only do we digest and metabolise what we eat but that we also don’t produce Ama. This is the Ayurvedic term for the accumulated deposit that is created in the body by the heavy residue produced by poorly or undigested food and the un-expelled and accumulated waste in the body. Dr Vasant Lad describes Ama as a “morbid, toxic, sticky substance that is the root cause of many diseases.” An accumulation of Ama can contribute to constipation, inflammation, fatigue, weakened immunity, unhealthy cravings, and even mental fog and depression. Thus nurturing our inner agni is important because first it prevents the production of Ama and secondly it helps the body expel any stored Ama. Spices and herbs can be an easy way to nurture and strengthen our digestive agni.

  • Spices: Turmeric, Dried Ginger powder, Black Pepper, Clove and Cardamom (Elaichi) are spices that encourage digestive fire. While Turmeric is astringent and has a drying effect that helps the body absorb and dispel excess liquid, the rest are all gently warming without aggravating Pitta dosha.
  • Ginger Tea: Ginger has an unparalleled potential to encourage digestive ability. Steep a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger in a cup of hot water for 3 to 5 minutes and then strain and enjoy as a powerful digestive drink. You can add honey as a sweetener if desired. Ginger as a spice iscleansing and detoxifying for the body. It also enhances digestion and kindles the appetite by strengthening our digestive fire. But fresh ginger can be very warming, thus Pitta prone people are advised to consume it in moderation.

Festivals of Vaishakha

Solar New Year: The Sun enters the zodiac house of Aries on April 14, which is celebrated as Mesha Sankranti. With this transit, the solar new year begins anew in the traditional astrological calendars of the subcontinent. Many communities also celebrate this beginning of the new year with harvest festival and other rituals of auspiciousness. 

Harvest Festivals: In Punjab Baisakhi, a spring harvest festival, will be celebrated with gusto on April 14. Puthandu, the Tamil New Year and the harvest festival, will be celebrated on April 14 this year. A beautiful ritual of Puthandu is the Kanni or ‘Auspicious Sight’ ritual. Typically, a tray laden with fruits, jewellery, flowers, betel leaves and a mirror is prepared a night before Puthandu. This tray is meant to be the first thing the family members see when they wake up the next morning. This ritual darshan is believed to bring good luck and prosperity. A similar ritual called Vishukanni is a part of the Malayali festival of Vishu, which is also being celebrated on April 14.

In Bengal Poila Boishaakh or Nobo Borsho (New Year) will be celebrated on April 15 this year. In the traditional Bengali calendar this is the beginning of the year. As a part of the festivities, the houses are cleaned and the floors and courtyards are decorated with alpana or rangoli.

And in Assam the seven-days long festival of Bohag Bihu will mark the traditional start of the solar new year. The festivities include honouring the fields and cattle. And every evening is marked by a  bonfire. Perhaps one of the most beautiful part of Bohag Bihu is the Bihu dance. It is believed that all the movements of this dance celebrate the season of fertility for both the body and the land.

Akshaya Tritiya: Also known as Akha Teej, comes on April 22 this year. Considered a very auspicious day, it is highly regarded as being a good day for starting any project or work. The word Akshaya means ‘that which never diminishes’. Thus, it is also considered an auspicious day for spiritual practices that will grow but not diminish. With the same sentiment it is also considered good to buy gold on this day.

Buddha Purnima falls on May 5. This day is celebrated as both – the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha and as the day on which he attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. With this beautiful Full Moon, the month of Vaishakha and Basant rtu both come to a close.

May the moonlight of Buddha Purnima bring beauty and wisdom of peace into your life.

Comments (1)

Very beautifully written Nilakshi.

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