The winter is coming.—the earth has turned the golden hue, as Kalidasa aptly calls her the Sharada vadu, she is the heralds the news that varsha the torrential rains is spent up, grishma the scorching heat is far behind, this is the time of Saraswati, the subtle, the gentle
“What good is the warmth of Summer, without the cold of winter to give its sweetness.” ― John Steinbeck
the clouds recede, to give way to warm gentle sun, the seasons of winter, that has sharad—hemant and wanes into sishir, is probably the most romantic of seasons.
It is the time to rejuvenate and heal, the time of hibernation. Warm clothes ,hot food, the earth tone in clothes, silks and woollens.
The Taittareya Brahmana has a graphic presentation of the shadritu, the year or samvatsara is a bird. Vasantha its head, grishma the left-wing sharad the right-wing, varsha its hail and hemanta the middle.
Tasya re Vasantha shirahah/Grishmo Dakshina pakshahah/
Sharad uttara-pakshhah/Varshap pucchyam/ Hemanto Madhyama. (TBrh: 18.104.22.168)
Hemanta the coolest of the six seasons in the subcontinent is the winter proper or the closest that we can get to it. it brings snow and fog to the north and south finds restive temperatures below thirty. At least it did before our forests were killed.
Hemanta gives way to shishira the cool season, it rather difficult to differentiate one from the other. Shishira is later winter has abundance of snow,, the sun is weak, that it almost looks like the moon. The rice and sugarcane of sharad still fill the fields. The krauncha pakshi ie the curlew begins to appear, few flowering plants do exist, the poets from Bhana – to Kalidasa to Keshavadasa and Meera now move from nature to the nocturnal intimacies and morning after.
Keshavadasa’s poetry Rasika priya talks of Krishna and Radha sharing a blanket to stay warm. Long nights seem to help lovers and their lovemaking. The warmth of the human touch.
Gaja-pati-dvayasīr api haimantas tuhinayat saritaḥ pṛṣatāṃ patiḥ |
Salila-saṃtatim adhvaga-yoṣitām atanuta atanu-tāpa-kṛtaṃ dṛśām ||
The winter wind, lord of water drops, freezing even rivers deep as the mightiest of elephants is tall, produces a stream of hot, painful tears from the eyes of women whose husbands are away.
6.55 Ṥiśupālavadha – Māgha
Travellers seem to bear the brunt of the less romantic aspects of the season, like chattering teeth, finding warmth in thread bare rags, at the mercy of the farmer and housewives who are not very sympathetic.
Interestingly the absence of flowers in this season does seem to disturb Valmiki, for in the Ramayana Lakshmana refers to the season as ishta—that is desired, or longed for, priya—that is dear to Rama. The descriptions of the mist in the dawn and veiled sun are found.
Avaśyāya-tamo-naddhā nīhāra-tamas’’ āvṛtāḥ |
Prasuptā iva lakṣyante vipuṣpā vana-rājayaḥ ||
The expanses of forest seem fast asleep, wrapped up in the darkness of hoarfrost, blanketed by the darkness of snow, with not a blossom open.
3.15.21 Ramayana, Vāmīki – translated by Sheldon Pollock
When I look at the Kangra paintings of Barahmaas, I wonder, if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? Maybe like the ratridevi draws a dark quilt to allow us rest and heal, hemanta draws a white quilt telling all living creatures, “Go to sleep till the summer comes again.” Heal in the warmth of another living creature.
Like Edith Sitwell put it, “winter is the time for comfort, for good and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
- Seasonal poetry Venetia Ansell
- Seasons in Sanskrit poetry Srinivasa Rao